SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Despite having the second-worst record in the Western Conference, the Sacramento Kings are proving to be a dangerous offensive team of late.
Marcus Thornton scored 24 points for the Kings, who used a strong second half to beat the slumping Minnesota Timberwolves 115-99 on Sunday night.
It was the second straight impressive victory for the Kings (16-29), who humbled the visiting Boston Celtics 120-95 on Friday night. Thornton had 36 points against the Celtics and was a primary threat against the Timberwolves, but he had plenty of help with six players scoring in double figures.
``We're having fun right now, playing the game the right way,' said rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas, who had made four 3-pointers and scored 18 points. ``It's always nice when guys are knocking down shots. It makes it that much easier for me.'
The Kings were tied at halftime, but gained the lead for good by outscoring Minnesota 33-25 in the third quarter. Sacramento quickly built on its eight-point lead after three quarters and the Timberwolves trailed by double digits for much of the fourth.
``We were giving them too much room on the perimeter and easy paths to the basket in the first half,' Kings coach Keith Smart said. ``I think we had them well above the 3-point line running their offense in the second half.'
WIth center DeMarcus Cousins having an off night and minus injured starter Tyreke Evans, the Kings needed some additional help and got it from their bench. Chuck Hayes had a season-high 12 points and eight rebounds, and Donte Greene added 11 points for the Kings, who outscored Minnesota 25-17 in the fourth quarter.
``That's the bench's job, that's what we need to come in and do,' Hayes said. ``We need to come in with energy and enthusiasm and we did that tonight.'
John Salmons scored 15 points and Jason Thompson had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings. The Kings are 4-3 on their franchise-high, nine-game homestand that concludes Thursday against Utah.
Kevin Love had his 33rd 20-10 game, scoring 21 points and getting 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, losers of three straight and four of five. Derrick Williams had 16 points and nine rebounds, Martell Webster had 14 points, while Michael Beasley and Luke Ridnour had 13.
Love and reserve guard Jose Barea got into a brief shouting match on the bench late in the game. Minnesota, which is losing ground in trying to secure a berth in the Western Conference playoffs, is 1-3 on a seven-game road trip that concludes Friday in Oklahoma City.
``It's frustrating, but nothing personal against JJ,' said Love, who made just 7-of-20 shots. ``I think we were both frustrated and took it out on each other when we should have took it out on the other team. So both of us made mistakes and both of us feel bad.'
The Kings ran off five straight points, including an impressive fast-break dunk by seldom-used rookie Tyler Honeycutt with just over four minutes left that brought the crowd to its feet. The surge put Sacramento in front 110-93 with 3:42 left.
Minnesota, which is 1-4 since rookie point guard Ricky Rubio was lost for the season with a torn ACL, committed 21 turnovers, shot 41 percent, and made only six of 25 3s.
``Everything we started off at the beginning of the season trying to avoid we did tonight,' Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. ``I don't know how many second-chance points they had, but they continued to beat us to the rim. Their season has been tough and we talked about that before the game. If you let them get going in their own building they will be tough.'
Ahead by eight points to start the fourth quarter, the Kings pushed the lead to 13. Hayes had the first four points of the quarter and Thornton made a jumper and added a 3-pointer a short time later, giving Sacramento a 99-86 lead at the 8:35 mark.
``They hit a lot of jumpers in that first half, so we needed to contest their shots better in the second half and we were able to do that,' Greene said. ``We got rebounds, and got out on the break for some easy baskets and were able to break the game open.'
Evans, the Kings' second-leading scorer, missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle. Although they both were in uniform, reserves Francisco Garcia (sprained right wrist) and J.J. Hickson (back spasms) didn't play.
The Timberwolves started Darko Milicic at center in place of Nikola Pekovic, who is bothered by a sore left ankle. Milicic was ineffective, getting two points and no rebounds in just six first-quarter minutes.
Thomas and Cousins both had nine points in the third quarter for the Kings, who led 90-82 heading into the fourth. But Cousins also picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench with just over four minutes left in the period.
The Kings came out fast in the third quarter, producing a 12-4 run. Thornton made a pair of free throws and followed with a 3-pointer, putting the Kings ahead 69-61 at the 8:26 mark.
After missing the previous two games with a toe injury, Beasley delivered off the bench against the Kings. Beasley made a 3-pointer on his first shot late in the opening quarter and continued shooting well in the second.
Salmons scored 13 points for the Kings, who outscored the Timberwolves 29-26 in the second quarter to pull even at 57 by halftime. Love and Beasley both had 11points for Minnesota.
Notes: Cousins got off to a slow start, missing all five shots and getting one rebound in a scoreless first half. . Adelman, the Kings head coach for eight seasons, was given a big ovation during introductions. Adelman was fired after guiding the Kings to a 44-38 record in 2005-06. The Kings have not had a winning season since his departure. . Rubio will be operated on this Wednesday in Denver. . The Timberwolves made all 17 free throws and the Kings finished 19 of 21.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved