Kings fall to Timberwolves 92-80, start season 0-2

931305.jpg

Kings fall to Timberwolves 92-80, start season 0-2

BOX SCORE

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- J.J. Barea had 21 points and five assists in 28 minutes for Minnesota, helping the Timberwolves overcome a weak shooting performance in their season opener and beat the Sacramento Kings 92-80 on Friday night.Brandon Roy pitched in 10 points, six assists and five rebounds and Andrei Kirilenko added 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists as both players returned to NBA action for the first time since the end of the 2010-11 season.Isaiah Thomas had 14 of his 20 points in the third quarter for the Kings, who trailed for most of the game but overtook the Wolves for a stretch after halftime. Reserve Marcus Thornton had 15 points, but DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans were quiet.Barea and his bench buddies led the way for the Wolves, who will be without stars Ricky Rubio (left knee surgery) and Kevin Love (broken right hand) for at least the first month of the season. Greg Stiemsma hounded Cousins around the basket and had nine points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 16 minutes.The Wolves shot 2 for 17 from 3-point range.Nikola Pekovic, who finished 2 for 8 from the field in a bruising matchup against Cousins, finally made his first basket with 4:10 left when he got loose on a fast break and dropped in a layup off a slick pass from Kirilenko to stretch the lead to 82-74 and finally give the home team a comfortable cushion again.Cousins led the Kings in almost every significant statistical category last season, but with Pekovic and Stiemsma bothering him in the paint he had just 11 points and four rebounds. Evans, who had 21 points and eight rebounds in the Kings' opener, finished with six points on 3-for-14 shooting.The Wolves built a 45-27 lead in the second quarter, but their inability to sink any outside shots caught up with them, and the lead shrunk to nine points by halftime. Then the Kings, with Thomas making three 3-pointers in the period, came surging out of the locker room. The Wolves missed 10 of their first 12 shots in the second half.The sharp-dressed men behind the bench - Rubio was in a charcoal suit coat; Love wore dark gray - could only watch while the errant shots piled up from all corners of the court. Some of it was simply bad luck, balls that rolled around the rim and inexplicably rolled out. Many of the misses looked like smart plays, but they just wouldn't go in.The Kings have a streak of six straight losing seasons that coincides with the amount of time since coach Rick Adelman was fired. Now he's with the Wolves, trying to turn them into the perennial playoff team he had in Sacramento.Any improvement for the Kings this season will start with defense. They were by far the easiest team to score against in 2011-12, allowing an average of more than 104 points per game. They've shown at least a few signs this week they're more willing and capable of distracting their opponent enough to stay competitive. They lost 93-87 in Chicago two nights before.After falling behind 61-56, the reserves led the Wolves on a 12-0 spurt to regain command of the game. With Stiemsma's long arms and soft touch in the post, Barea's quickness and confidence and the hustle by Chase Budinger and Dante Cunningham, the second group sure looked sharper than the first.Adelman was stingy with playing time for Derrick Williams in his rookie season. But the second pick in last year's draft has the ability to score in bunches and the Wolves will need that punch while Love is out, so he took the All-Star's place at power forward. Williams had all kinds of trouble finding an easy path to the basket and finishing his layups once he got there, but he wasn't the only one. Williams had eight points and seven rebounds.NOTES: Adelman said he'd prefer to keep his starting lineup the same while Love is out. Cunningham's energy off the bench was another factor, Adelman said, in giving Williams the start. ... Kings swingman John Salmons has rejoined the team after a two-week absence to be with his wife and newborn child, but he's not ready for game action yet. Coach Keith Smart said his conditioning needs to be built back up before he'll use him. ... Kings backup point guard Aaron Brooks broke a tooth diving on the floor for a loose ball against the Bulls. "He put it under his pillow, but he didn't get any money," Smart quipped. ... This was the fourth time in seven years that the Timberwolves opened their season at home against the Kings. Sacramento was the opponent for six of the franchise's 24 openers.

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Coward move' by Kings owner Ranadive, GM Divac

DeMarcus Cousins: 'Coward move' by Kings owner Ranadive, GM Divac

Last Sunday night, DeMarcus Cousins was traded to the Pelicans.

The move stunned the basketball world and the All-Star big man himself.

After Cousins' debut in a Pelicans uniform on Thursday night, he opened up to Marc Spears of The Undefeated.

"Nah. For what? It was a coward move, so I’m pretty sure I will get a coward response," Cousins said when asked if he wants to talk to Kings owner Vivek Ranadive or GM Vlade Divac. "For what?

"And I’ve seen this happen before. I’ve been there through all same types … I was there with Mike Malone’s. I’ve seen how they operate. I know what kind of answer I will get anyway. So, what is the point?"

Cousins also revealed a story about the Kings telling him he would not be traded.

"A week before the trade," Cousins started. "The sick part about it is that Vlade came in my house with my agent. We sat in my theater and just talked. That was maybe three weeks ago. We sat there and (he) told me what moves he wanted to make. All of that. I just didn’t understand.

"I got a text from the owner right before I went to All-Star. He was asking me about a player, how I felt about him and making a move. The owner! When it happened, I was just in shock. I didn’t understand."

Cousins registered 27 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, five steals and four blocks against the Rockets, but the Pelicans lost by 30.

Cauley-Stein not only Kings player to thrive in first game without Cousins

Cauley-Stein not only Kings player to thrive in first game without Cousins

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings fell behind by eight at the 6:23 mark of the first quarter and the tension inside of Golden 1 Center was palpable. A spattering of boos could be heard from a fanbase that had just watched their franchise cornerstone sent packing over the weekend. The worst fears seemed to be playing out.

And then Willie Cauley-Stein happened.

Head coach Dave Joerger summoned the second-year big man into the game and he responded with a dunk off a Ben McLemore pass. He followed that up with a put back slam and then a driving lay-up and then a 15-foot jumper. By the end of the first quarter, Cauley-Stein had poured in eight points on 4-of-4 shooting and Sacramento held a 29-26 lead.

“He didn’t feel us,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “We didn’t have great execution with our pick-and-roll defense. He got behind us. We weren’t covering the rim. It was easy for him.”

The lanky 7-footer has been waiting for his opportunity and with DeMarcus Cousins now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, he is getting his shot.

Cauley-Stein continued his strong play in the second quarter as the Kings pushed their lead as high as 20. In 15 minutes of action before the break, Cauley-Stein posted 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting. He finished the night with a career-high 29 points and chipped in 10 rebounds in the win, but he wasn’t the only Kings player to post big numbers.

Sacramento used a team effort to pull off a 116-100 shocking victory. Six players scored in double-figures, including rookie Buddy Hield and veteran Tyreke Evans who joined the Kings in the Cousins trade over the weekend.

“Everybody’s unselfish,” Hield said. “When you play unselfish, I feel like everything is possible. Guys aren’t worried about who’s getting the most shots up. It doesn’t matter in this group.”

The rookie out of Oklahoma turned heads in his first appearance in a Kings uniform, scoring 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He knocked down a 3-pointer and showed a pretty tear drop in the lane.  

“Buddy is real confident, especially for a rookie,” point guard Darren Collison said. “He can shoot the ball really well. He can create a little bit off the pick-and-roll and he gets after it on defense too.”

Evans dropped in 15 points, grabbed four rebounds and handed out three assists off Dave Joerger’s bench. This is the second go-around in Sacramento for the former Rookie of the Year and there is a clear need for his ball-handling skills on the current version of the Kings.

In addition to Cauley-Stein, Hield and Evans, seldom used rookie Skal Labissiere put in a solid effort in his 14 minutes of action. The Haitian-born big man will likely play plenty of minutes down the stretch as the Kings adjust to their new, guard heavy roster.

Labissiere brought an energy and excitement to the game, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He was active, which the veterans in Sacramento have seen in practice sessions, but Labissiere hasn’t been given the chance in real game action until Thursday night.

“Skal has been working since he got here,” Collison said. “I’ve seen that kid work after the games, in the gym by himself, before practice, after practice, before games, after the games. So it’s good to see that work finally paying off for him.”

Collison added 15 points and 10 assists in 32 minutes. Ty Lawson chipped in eight points and six assists starting alongside Collison and Ben McLemore knocked down two 3-pointers on his way to 10 points.

It was a team effort for a group that has had very little time to gel together. The Kings’ second unit scored an incredible 72 points on the night, outscoring the Nuggets reserves by 28.

With the win, Sacramento moved to within a half game of Denver for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race. They head back to Golden 1 Center on Saturday afternoon for a 2pm start against the Charlotte Hornets who have lost 12 of their last 13 games, including an overtime stunner on Thursday against the Detroit Pistons.