Kings

Love is all T-Wolves need to top Kings, 99-86

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Love is all T-Wolves need to top Kings, 99-86

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Rick Adelman knows his smallish backcourt is going to give up plenty of size and strength on most nights.The Minnesota Timberwolves coach also knows that Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour will never give in either, and their hard-nosed play against the bigger Sacramento Kings made all the difference on Monday night.Kevin Love had 33 points and 11 rebounds and Ridnour added 25 points and nine assists to lead the Timberwolves to a 99-86 victory over the Kings.Tyreke Evans has 2 inches and 40 pounds on Rubio, and Marcus Thornton has 3 inches and 30 pounds on Ridnour, but the bigger Kings were held to 21 points on 7-for-23 shooting.Score one for the little guys."They can keep their guy in front of them," Adelman said. "They pretty much follow what we talk about."Wayne Ellington, another undersized shooting guard, scored 15 points off the bench for Minnesota, a significant contribution for a backcourt that was missing J.J. Barea for the third straight game because of a sprained left ankle.Evans had nine points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and five turnovers and shot just 3 of 11 from the field as the Kings lost for the fifth time in six games.Jason Thompson and Thornton led the Kings with 12 points each. DeMarcus Cousins was hampered by foul trouble yet again, limited to 10 points in 25 minutes."We've got to grow up," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "Our team has to grow up fast. ... I've got the simplest offense you can run. You just move it to a spot and move it to the next spot. But for whatever reason we're trying to make the play ourselves with the defense set, looking at the basketball."Evans' strategy was particularly curious given his size advantage. Too often he settled for perimeter jumpers and only rarely took it to the basket to try to get easy buckets."Once we got down, we just tried to take shots we don't usually take," Evans said. "We've got to find a better way to swing the ball a few times and take better shots."Rubio had nine points, eight assists and eight rebounds.Love has scored 97 points over the last three games, with a Jan. 25 deadline to extend his contract getting closer and closer. He is the first player since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1992 to start the season with 13 straight double-doubles and has topped 30 points in three straight games for the first time in his career.Rubio has received most of the attention and headlines this season, and rightfully so. His flashy, no-look passes and dynamic play in the open court have electrified a dormant franchise and put more fans in the seats at Target Center than at any time in recent memory.Through it all, Ridnour has been the understated motor that just keeps plugging along. He got the Wolves off to a good start with 10 points, three assists and two rebounds in the first quarter and even blocked a shot to set a tone as Minnesota took a 28-22 lead.Ridnour has been moved from the point to off guard to make room for Rubio in the starting lineup, and he has blossomed in the role despite being undersized."I just try to make it as hard as I can for them," Ridnour said of defending bigger guards. "Really just on the offensive end, make them work, too. They're not used to guarding little guys."One game after scoring just 60 points and getting blown out by 39 in a loss to Dallas, the Kings could have checked out again in the final game of a five-game road trip. But Sacramento's ailing defense held Minnesota to 14 points in the second quarter, and the bench thoroughly outplayed the Timberwolves' reserves to close the half on a 16-4 run.Ridnour hit two 3-pointers and assisted on Love's dunk in the final 3 minutes to help the Wolves put the game away."He shoots the ball very well," Rubio said of Ridnour. "I never see him missing a jump shot. I don't know (what) his field goal percentage is, but it should be more than 70 percent or something like that all season."The Wolves blew an 18-point lead at Atlanta on Saturday night, so an eight-point advantage to start the fourth quarter was anything but safe. Thompson's dunk cut Minnesota's lead to 72-71 just over 3 minutes into the period.Ellington responded with two 3s, the last giving the Wolves an 82-76 lead that helped them start to pull away.NOTES: Wolves swingman Martell Webster, who has not played this season after having back surgery, was cleared for contact on Monday and will practice on Tuesday. There is still no timetable for his return. C Brad Miller, still recovering from microfracture knee surgery, is returning to practice as well. ... Wolves F Michael Beasley missed his sixth straight game with a sprained right foot. ... NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver attended the game.

De'Aaron Fox lives up to billing, looks ready for primetime after solid debut

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USATSI

De'Aaron Fox lives up to billing, looks ready for primetime after solid debut

SACRAMENTO -- Watching tape of De’Aaron Fox looks like a video stuck on fast forward. The comparisons to John Wall don’t do him justice. Teams deliberately sag off the rookie and dare him to shoot and he still manages to race by them in a blur.

If his opening night performance against the Houston Rockets was any indication, the Kings have landed a special player. From barking orders on the court to his teammates to going at NBA veteran defenders, Fox looked ready for primetime just 24 minutes into his professional career.

“I got to get my first NBA game out the way, I think it went well,” Fox told a huge crowd surrounding his locker. “We played hard. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to, we wanted to get the W, but there’s a lot of things we learned out of today.”

Dressed in a burgundy suit and shoes that would have made Omri Casspi blush, the rookie hung around for way too long after the game, giving every camera and microphone a good talking to. He’ll learn quickly that the media is drawn to him like a moth to a flame.

His numbers look modest - 14 points on 7-of-15 shooting and five assists. But he was facing a title contender in the Houston Rockets and the moment wasn’t too big for the 19-year-old point guard. Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni even showed the rookie respect when he shifted one of his better defenders in Trevor Ariza over to cover the speedster.

“This is game 1, we’re not expecting him to be a Hall of Famer right now,” George Hill said. “It takes steps to do it and baby crawls. But I think he took a huge step today in proving what he can do. He looked good out there.”

Hill started in front of Fox, but the two guards played alongside each other for plenty of minutes. That is the plan this season, although there are plenty of other players vying for minutes in the backcourt.

Everyone in the building seemed impressed by the youngster. He has an ability to drop the pedal down on an opponent and then downshift on the fly to stay under control.

“He’s pretty fast, you know,” Dave Joerger said of his star rookie. “He has a terrific charisma about him and I think he’ll be fun to play with.”

His teammates appeared to have no problems keeping up. They ran the floor and pushed the tempo when Fox was in the game and the team seems to feed off his energy.

“They play hard, man,” Vince Carter said of Fox and team’s other young players players. “They just go for it and that’s all you can ask. It’s just great and it’s going to get better. You can show them all the film you want, but they’re not going to learn until they get thrown into the fire. That’s the best lesson.”

Game 1 is in the books and Fox is already earning a longer look. The team embarks on their first road trip of the season beginning Friday night against the Mavericks. Waiting for them in Dallas is another young point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., setting up the first of many battles between the star-studded draft class of 2017.

Kings adamantly disagree with perplexing foul call at end of loss to Rockets

Kings adamantly disagree with perplexing foul call at end of loss to Rockets

SACRAMENTO -- Every time the Houston Rockets tried to pull away, the Sacramento Kings answered Wednesday night in the team’s home opener. It was a heavyweight contender throwing body blows at a 100-to-1 underdog riding a huge home crowd advantage.

And then the ref called the fight.

With the Kings trailing 98-95 with 26 seconds remaining, the Rockets attempted to inbounds the ball and George Hill made a play. From the video replay, it appeared that the ball tipped off the fingertips of Houston's Eric Gordon and the nearest official called Kings ball.

Hill and teammate Garrett Temple celebrated the turnover and the sold out crowd went crazy.

The play went under review and not only was the call overturned, but Hill was assessed a personal foul. Gordon went to the line and hit two freebies to give the Rockets a 100-95 lead and effectively ended Sacramento’s chances.

In the confusion of the moment, it turns out that an official on the opposite side of the court called a personal foul and the replay wasn’t to check on possession, but to determine which Kings player would be assessed a personal foul.  

The Kings can’t call shenanigans on the officials, the league has stiff penalties for that. But they seemed just as confused as everyone else in the building when asked about the call during postgame interviews.

“I could have swore that the refs pointed out of bounds, our ball, but they said they called a foul, so it is, what it is,” Hill said following the game.

Hill avoided digging himself a hole with the league and a potential fine as reporters tried to dig deeper. 

Head coach Dave Joerger gave an account of what the officials said following the call, but he too seemed perplexed by the play.

“That was a foul,” Joerger said of what the officials told him on the sidelines. “I adamantly disagreed. They said they called it at the time, which I didn’t see. So that was more my argument than whether it was a foul or not.”

Sacramento continued to compete in the final seconds, but they were forced to foul intentionally down the stretch and the Rockets were able to hold them at bay to come away with the 105-100 victory.