MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The absence of two All-Stars didn’t slow Sacramento. The main thing missing was Minnesota’s energy.
Brad Miller had 27 points, 15 rebounds and plenty of help picking up the slack for a pair of injured teammates, sparking the Kings to a 94-84 victory over the sluggish Timberwolves on Sunday afternoon.
The Sacramento backcourt, Cuttino Mobley (23 points) and Mike Bibby (21 points), surged for a combined 34 points over the final two quarters. Peja Stojakovic (back spasms) and Chris Webber (sore left knee) didn’t suit up, but Minnesota missed a chance to capitalize.
“Whenever we have people down, people step up,” Bibby said.
Kevin Garnett had 21 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Wolves, whose five-game winning streak ended in ragged fashion. The quiet crowd of 18,722 for the Timberwolves’ earliest tipoff of the season booed when the buzzer sounded.
“It was extremely disappointing,” said coach Flip Saunders, who suggested he might have to seek a routine change in light of his Minnesota’s poor performance in recent years during daylight hours. “We might have to go back to the college days of putting guys in hotels.”
Sacramento shot only 35.6 percent in the first half, but Bibby and Mobley soon got it going. The Kings went 14-for-23 in the third quarter, using a 25-8 run over the first 8 1/2 minutes to take control. Keeping the ball away from Garnett, Mobley and Miller repeatedly attacked Eddie Griffin on the pick-and-roll.
“I just became a bigger part of the offense,” Miller said.
The Wolves, who got 17 points from Wally Szczerbiak, were completely out of synch throughout most of the second half. Had the Kings not missed nine of their 18 free throws, the outcome would’ve been worse.
“It was a golden opportunity,” said Sam Cassell, referring to Minnesota’s quest to overcome a rough start and move up in the jammed Western Conference standings.
Darius Songaila gave Sacramento 12 points, six rebounds, six assists and some valuable energy in Webber’s spot. Starters scored all but five points for the Kings, winners of nine of their last 11.
Mobley, acquired earlier this month in a trade with Orlando, has 47 points in his last two games—his two best performances for Sacramento.
“Getting Cuttino really helps us, because Mike doesn’t always have to run it,” coach Rick Adelman said.
The Wolves trailed by nine early in the fourth when Songaila soared to grab a rebound in traffic and kicked the ball to Bibby for a 3-pointer that made it 78-66. Bibby followed with a short running jumper on the next possession to push the lead to 14, giving the Kings their biggest edge of the game and forcing Minnesota to call timeout with 9:10 left.
“Mike was 0-for-8, and I think I was 0-for-100,” Mobley said. “But we stuck with it. We played help defense. Our mind-set was keep playing hard and something good might happen.”
No Sacramento reserve played more than nine minutes. Saunders, still trying to find the right mix, used all 12 of his players—several of whom have publicly lobbied for more time.
“That’s all they tell everybody,” Saunders said. “You’d think when you get on the floor, you’d play and give everything you have.”
Mobley wondered about Saunders’ substitution pattern.
“The way he was throwing around guys, I don’t see how they can get their rhythm,” Mobley said.
In his last four games, Miller is shooting better than 68 percent (41-for-60) from the floor. … The Timberwolves lobbied for a defensive 3-second call on Mobley in the second quarter, arguing that he was hanging too long in the lane and not really guarding Fred Hoiberg. Seconds after Mobley responded by shouting “Shut up!” at the Minnesota bench, Hoiberg hit a 3-pointer. … The Kings won for just the third time in their last 15 regular-season games here. … With energy man Mark Madsen out several more weeks, the Wolves signed forward John Thomas for the rest of the season after his second 10-day contract expired. Madsen, meanwhile, had his broken left thumb examined this weekend and his recovery remains on track. The pins he had inserted to stabilize the thumb stick through the skin, by design. “It kind of freaks me out,” Madsen said. … Starting with this game, Minnesota plays on nine of the next 10 Sundays, including six afternoon starts.