Yet when they needed their leader the most, as they were unraveling in the fourth quarter against Minnesota, Bibby’s stunning ejection ultimately cost the Kings the game.
Bibby picked up two technical fouls late in the fourth quarter, and Kevin Garnett finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds to lift the Timberwolves to a 92-83 victory Wednesday night.
Bibby was expected to miss the first two weeks of the season with a mallet thumb—an injury in which a finger tendon becomes detached from bone, preventing the finger from fully extending. But new Kings coach Eric Musselman said Bibby’s wrist was actually causing him more pain than the thumb, and Sacramento’s leading scorer from a year ago said he was good to go after Wednesday morning’s shootaround.
His teammates refused to criticize Bibby’s error, especially considering the toughness he showed in coming back so soon.
“We’ve got to learn from this, keep our cool, and make sure we execute,” center Brad Miller said.
Sacramento committed 12 of its 18 turnovers in the fourth and Bibby drew two technicals, getting tossed with the Kings down by six and less than three minutes to play.
Sacramento trailed 83-77 when Bibby argued a foul call with referee Derrick Stafford. After receiving one technical, Bibby continued to bark at the official and was promptly ejected. He finished with 16 points and five assists.
Garnett made both technicals and two more free throws for getting fouled to give Minnesota an 87-77 lead.
“It’s a new team, a new nucleus,” Garnett said. “Tonight we were aggressive in the fourth quarter. … The fourth quarter is winning time.”
Troy Hudson, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth, sealed the victory with a 3-pointer with 43 seconds to play, and Minnesota overcame 21 turnovers by holding Sacramento to 36 percent shooting.
“I like the way our guys closed the game out in the fourth quarter,” Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey said. “That was a bugaboo of ours last year.”
It was a homecoming of sorts for Musselman, whose late father Bill coached at the University of Minnesota and was the first head coach in Timberwolves history. Eric Musselman served as an assistant on his father’s Timberwolves staff and said he met up with a buddy from elementary school before the game.
Hudson, a monumental disappointment last season who missed 46 games with an ankle injury, was clutch down the stretch for Minnesota, giving the Timberwolves the perimeter shooter they sorely lacked last season.
“Man, it felt great to be out there,” said Hudson, who showed plenty of emotion on the court. “And not just be out there, but to be healthy and helping the team.”
Trenton Hassell added 13 points for the Wolves, who trailed by seven in the third quarter after getting dominated on the offensive glass. The Kings grabbed a staggering 22 offensive rebounds.
In a game of few runs, the Kings used a 12-2 spurt midway through the third quarter to take a 62-55 lead. Martin capped the run with a 3-pointer that was Sacramento’s third shot of the possession.
“We just pretty much self-destructed,” Miller said. “Turnovers and pretty much things we could control.”
The Timberwolves held a moment of silence for late Celtics icon Red Auerbach before the game. … Garnett and Maurice Taylor received double technical fouls for barking at each other with 25.6 seconds to play in the third quarter. Taylor was ejected seconds later after a confrontation with Garnett on the other end of the floor. … Wolves rookie Craig Smith had a tough debut— three points, zero rebounds and six fouls in 10 minutes.