Barea, T'Wolves top Kings
Minneapolis, MN – No Kevin Love, no Ricky Rubio, no problem for the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.
J.J. Barea poured in a game-high 21 points and handed out five assists as the T'Wolves knocked off the Sacramento Kings, 92-80, in their season opener at Target Center.
Brandon Roy, who missed the entire 2011-12 season after he announced his retirement in March of 2011, returned to the hardwood and scored 10 points to go with six assists and five rebounds, while Andrei Kirilenko added 10 points, five assists and seven rebounds in the T'Wolves' first home-opening win since 2009-10.
Love, the T'Wolves All-Star center, will be out likely until the Christmas holiday after he broke his hand in the offseason, while Rubio suffered a torn ACL last March.
"The win is the most important thing for us," T'Wolves center Nikola Pekovic said. "We played well in the preseason, so we just wanted to carry it to tonight. We just need to make sure we play defense all season long, and we certainly did that tonight."
Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points, while Marcus Thornton contributed 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting for the Kings, who fell to Chicago in their season-opener on Wednesday.
Minnesota dominated the first quarter, racing out to an 11-4 lead less than four minutes into the game.
The Timberwolves shot 45.8 percent in the quarter and led by 10 heading to the second frame.
The Kings cut the deficit to seven on a Thornton free throw early in the second quarter, but Minnesota ripped off a 17-6 burst over the next seven-plus minutes of action to build a 45-27 lead.
Sacramento answered with a 14-5 surge to close the first half trailing, 50-41.
The Kings came out inspired after the break, outscoring the Timberwolves 20-6 to take a 61-56 lead with 5:26 to play in the third stanza. Thomas capped the spurt by nailing a 3-pointer.
"We got up by five there, the momentum was on our side," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "We just took some ill-advised shots. That's part of growing up with a young team."
Minnesota responded by netting 12 consecutive points, capped by a Greg Stiemsma slam with 1:47 left in the quarter.
The T'Wolves led 70-65 heading to the final quarter.
Jason Thompson hit a pair of free throws midway through the period to pull the Kings within 77-74, but the T'Wolves pulled away from there, scoring the next eight points.
Williams, last season's No. 2 overall pick in the draft, finished with eight points and seven boards ... Kirilenko played the entire 2011-12 season in Russia after signing there during the lockout. He won the Euro League MVP award that season ... The Timberwolves signed Roy to a two-year contract in July ... Stiemsma finished with nine points, seven rebounds and four blocks.