MINNEAPOLIS – Nikola Pekovic had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Michael Beasley added 17 points and 14 boards to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to an 86-84 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night in their first game without the suspended Kevin Love.
Ricky Rubio had 14 assists and five steals and Derrick Williams scored seven of his 14 points in the final four minutes to give the Timberwolves their third straight win.
DeMarcus Cousins had 10 points and 11 rebounds while battling foul trouble for most of the game. Jimmer Fredette scored all 13 of his points in the final period. But Tyreke Evans and Cousins combined to shoot just 8 for 26 to snap their three-game winning streak.
The Kings had a frenetic shot to win their fourth straight game in the final seconds, but Donte Green's 3-pointer from the corner missed at the buzzer.
Evans finished with 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting, while Thornton scored 21 of his 22 points in the first three quarters.
The Kings trailed 69-60 to start the fourth, and coach Keith Smart left his starting backcourt of Thornton and Evans on the bench and put his trust in Fredette.
It's been a difficult rookie season for the heralded 10th overall pick out of BYU. He's had difficulty keeping up with the quickness at the NBA level and finding his shot. After clanking his first two attempts of the game Tuesday night, Fredette found his range.
He buried three 3-pointers, scored off a steal and fed Green for a dunk that got Sacramento back in it.
Green's 3-pointer tied it at 82 with 1:09 to go, but Williams came back with a big 3-pointer in the corner to give the Wolves just enough.
While the rest of his Wolves teammates were struggling from the field in the third quarter, missing 13 of the 16 shots they took, Pekovic was a force. He made all six of his shots, three of them coming on dunks. One came on a between-the-legs feed from Rubio and another on a pretty spin to the baseline past Cousins.
The second-year man from Montenegro also lowered his shoulder and ran right over Cousins for a layup, and picked Jason Thompson at halfcourt and finished the play with a nifty finger roll to bring the crowd to its feet.
Love was suspended Monday for stepping on Rockets forward Luis Scola last Saturday. That meant the Timberwolves were missing his 25 points, 13.7 rebounds and NBA-leading 39.4 minutes for the game against the Kings and on Wednesday night at Memphis.
Williams got the start, getting an opportunity for extended playing time that has been increasingly rare for the No. 2 overall pick. He played 37 combined minutes the previous four games combined, stuck behind Love and a healthy Michael Beasley in the Minnesota frontcourt.
Notes: Love also will sit out Wednesday night's game at Memphis. ... Cousins picked up two fouls in the first four minutes and his fourth with 2:26 to go in the third. ... The Kings turned it over 19 times. ... Timberwolves C Darko Milicic missed the game with a sprained right ankle suffered in practice Monday.