An opening thumbs down
By Sam Amick - Bee Staff Writer
Last Updated 2:44 am PST Thursday, November 2, 2006
MINNEAPOLIS -- One day before his debut as the Kings' coach, Eric Musselman watched on television as the Chicago Bulls dismantled the reigning champion Miami Heat by an astounding 42 points.
It was a defensive display of eye-popping proportions, prompting Musselman to ask his coaching staff one question about his team's opponent in the second regular-season game.
"I held up a sign that said, 'How are we going to score?' " he said.
The question, as it turns out, was premature.
And the early signs for the Kings didn't look too good.
Against a Minnesota Timberwolves squad that won't be found on any league list of defensive powers, the Kings missed the mark at Target Center on Wednesday. They fell 92-83 in a flurry of failed attempts that amounted to a 34.8 percent shooting night.
For all the defensive chatter, the Kings aren't likely to make a playoff push with offensive performances of this ilk. And that was with a full arsenal.
The triumvirate of Mike Bibby, Ron Artest and Brad Miller was intact because of Bibby's surprise start. True to his quick-healing form, he returned from his thumb injury 10 days after the team had estimated being without him for at least two weeks. Then he found his way out of the game, capping a poor shooting night by being ejected with 2:52 left in the fourth quarter and the Kings still within range at 83-77.
But in terms of offense, none of the three ever truly arrived. Bibby, Artest and Miller shot a combined 14 for 51.
The inaccuracy didn't stop there. All five of forward Kenny Thomas' misses came within two feet of the rim, and reserve center Maurice Taylor had similar problems in the paint, going 0 for 4.
Shooting guard Kevin Martin scored a team-high 23 points on 9-for-15 shooting, but he also had five turnovers.
"Thirty-five percent is pretty bad for us," said Miller, who was 3 for 11. "We had a lot of good looks. I missed like seven wide-open jumpers."
He wasn't alone.
"It was basically a bad game for everybody," said Artest, who shot 6 for 24 but grabbed 12 rebounds and made seven steals. "Brad missed a couple of shots he doesn't miss. ... Bibby missed some jump shots that he doesn't usually miss. Kevin missed some early, and he doesn't miss. Shareef (Abdur-Rahim) missed some shots that he doesn't miss."
Nothing like pounding a point.
Forward Kevin Garnett (24 points, 12 rebounds) and a late surge by guard Troy Hudson (11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter) carried the T-wolves.
But for three quarters, the Kings followed through on the grind-it-out approach they had so often discussed. T-wolves guard Ricky Davis even compared the Kings' defense to an East Coast type -- not pretty, but plenty effective and aggravating for the foe.
The Kings survived a 16-point first quarter and trailed only 43-41 at halftime, with Musselman testing all sorts of lineups in an attempt to get things going.
"They played pretty good defense for a Sacramento team, brought a little of that East Coast defense," Davis said. "I don't know if that's because of their new coach over there, but it was good. I'm not used to seeing that."
The Kings were alive, too, because of ball control, with just six turnovers through three quarters. Six minutes into the fourth, the total had soared to 15.
There were bad passes by John Salmons, Abdur-Rahim and Bibby, an Abdur-Rahim offensive foul and a Thomas traveling call. The T-wolves capitalized for a 12-5 run and a 76-71 lead.
In the final six minutes, Martin had three turnovers as the Kings -- who scored only 17 fourth-quarter points -- finished with 18 turnovers.
"The fourth quarter was sloppiness, including myself," Martin said.
Game in review
Shooting guard Kevin Martin spent much of last season struggling to produce on the road, but he made it happen against Minnesota with a 23-point night. His shot wasn't quite as accurate as normal, but he filled the stat sheet with tip-ins, a fast-break dunk and a few jumpers to hit nine of 15 shots.
Granted, the officials have a much shorter leash on the players this season when it comes to arguing and attitude. But in his return from a thumb injury, point guard Mike Bibby's ejection with 2:52 left and the Kings trailing 83-77 was ill-timed and unneeded. He earned one technical for arguing a call, then continued long enough for Derrick Stafford to give him the heave-ho.
Player of the game
Troy Hudson was the virtual nail in the coffin, hitting three huge three-pointers in the fourth quarter and scoring 11 points in the period that the Timberwolves won 28-17.
The Kings won the rebounding battle 51-38.
Per Bibby's return, the Kings' roster is back at full health.
About the writer: The Bee's Sam Amick can be reached at samick@ sacbee.com.