(Sports Network) – Carl Landry paced a balanced attack with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and the Sacramento Kings overcame the suspension of their top scorer to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 117-116, at Target Center.
Francisco Garcia also had 22 points for the Kings, who were without Tyreke Evans after he was suspended for the season opener following an off-court incident that involved him speeding down the highway. Sacramento is expected to have the reigning Rookie of the Year back for Friday’s game at New Jersey.
Beno Udrih provided 18 points and six assists. Top pick DeMarcus Cousins was solid in his debut, adding 14 points and eight rebounds in the winning effort.
Luke Ridnour posted 20 points, six assists and five rebounds to lead the Timberwolves, who tied a franchise-worst with 15 wins last season. New acquisition Michael Beasley added 17 points and seven rebounds, while Kevin Love had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
“(The defense) has to get better,” Ridnour said. “In order to win in this league, you’ve got to play defense. All preseason, that’s kind of what carried us and what we hung our hat on. Then, it seems like when the lights came on, we didn’t execute and do the things we had all preseason.”
Trailing by three with just under four minutes to play, the Kings scored seven straight points to move ahead for good.
Omri Casspi began the game-winning run with a pair of free throws, and Landry’s three-point play just inside the three-minute mark put Sacramento ahead, 109-107.
Landry added another jumper for a four-point lead before Ridnour’s three- pointer with 56 seconds left cut Minnesota’s deficit to one, 111-110.
Udrih was able to go 4-for-4 from the line in the final seconds to help Sacramento maintain its lead, and Wayne Ellington’s potential game-tying three-pointer with under five seconds remaining was off the mark.
“It was great. It was a great season-opening game,” Udrih said. “I remember the last few years starting with 0-3, 0-4. Basically, we were just chasing .500. So, it’s big to start with a win, and hopefully we can win a couple more.”
Wesley Johnson, who scored 13 points in his NBA debut, made a tip shot with 0.3 seconds left to account for the final margin.
Landry led a balanced scoring attack in the first quarter with seven points, and the Kings held a 27-23 lead heading to the second.
Minnesota trailed by three with a little under 4 1/2 minutes until halftime before embarking on a 12-0 run, as a Love free throw provided a 58-49 cushion for the T’Wolves.
Sacramento cut its deficit to five, 58-53, at halftime.
The Kings came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders, beginning the third on a 16-2 burst to grab a 69-60 lead on Udrih’s 20-foot basket with eight minutes left.
Minnesota, however, answered with a 12-2 surge to retake the lead on two Anthony Tolliver free throws three minutes later. Luther Head drained a three- pointer to put the Kings back in control, 80-73, with three minutes to go, though the Timberwolves trailed by only four, 87-83, heading to the fourth.
Landry’s free throws with 9 1/3 minutes left pushed Sacramento to a 95-89 lead, but Minnesota’s 7-0 run later in the fourth ended when Beasley’s pair of free throws gave the hosts a 100-98 advantage with 5 1/2 minutes to play.
The Kings won 25 games last season…These teams split four games in 2009-10…Sebastian Telfair and Tolliver scored 15 and 14 points, respectively, for Minnesota…This game featured 17 lead changes…Head finished with 14 points, while Casspi had 10 in the win.