This is Sacramento’s first trip to the Target Center since being eliminated by Minnesota in Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal series. The Timberwolves won 83-80 after Chris Webber’s 3-point attempt spun around the rim and out as the final buzzer sounded.
Webber was badly outplayed by Kevin Garnett in that series, averaging 17.7 points and 7.6 rebounds while the league MVP had 23.9 and 15.4 per game, including 32 and 21 in Game 7. Still, Webber offered kind words about Garnett after the series.
“K.G. is probably my favorite player in the league,” said Webber, who struggled to readjust to his team late last season after returning from a knee injury. “I love going against him. He told me to get healthy, keep my head up.”
The knee is still sore at times, and Webber was forced to sit out a game for the first time this season Tuesday. He’s expected back in the lineup to face Garnett, who again got the better of Webber in the first meeting of the season between these teams.
Garnett had 28 points and 16 rebounds, and combined with Sam Cassell for all the points in a late 11-0 run that lifted Minnesota to a 121-110 victory in Sacramento on Nov. 28. It remains the Kings’ lone home loss this season, and the only one they’ve suffered in their last 14 games overall.
Webber had 25 points and 10 rebounds in the loss, part of a six-game stretch in which he’s averaged 21.3 points, 10.3 boards and 5.5 assists. That’s a big improvement from his numbers late last season as he tried to recover from knee surgery.
He has also benefitted from defenses focusing more of their attention on Peja Stojakovic, who had season highs of 30 points and 12 rebounds with Webber sidelined in Tuesday’s 109-92 win over Charlotte.
“We missed Chris, but it’s good for everybody to take more responsibility,” Stojakovic said. “We did a pretty good job defensively and on the boards.”
Garnett gets consistent double-teams, which has opened things up for Timberwolves newcomer Eddie Griffin. The oft-troubled forward has averaged 18 points and 10.8 rebounds over the last three games, and scored a career-high 27 in Wednesday’s 119-84 win at Philadelphia.
“I know for a fact that teams double or triple-team Kevin Garnett, (and) Eddie gives us a dimension that we have never had and that he’s never had,” Cassell said. “He’s big, he can rebound, block shots. … Kevin knows he’s got an outlet to Eddie when he’s in the corner.”