Kings 101, Timberwolves 98

Coming off a forgettable first half, Tyreke Evans made up for it

by playing a memorable final two quarters.

Evans scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half, and Isaiah

Thomas had 24 points and six assists to help the Sacramento Kings

earn their third straight home win by holding off the slumping

Minnesota Timberwolves 101-98 on Thursday night.

Evans has grown more confident with his outside shot this

season, but his game is still depends on penetrating to the

basket.

He did plenty of that in the second half when he made 7 of 8

shots and converted 4 of 5 free throws. Evans made all four of his

shots in the fourth quarter when he scored 11 points. He was not a

factor in the opening half when he was 1 of 3.

”I was being more aggressive; I was kind of going through the

motions in the first half,” said Evans, who added five assists and

five rebounds. ”I wasn’t in a groove and in the second half I

started attacking the basket. I stayed patient. I know it’s a long

game.”

This been a good stretch for the Kings, who have had one of the

worst records in the Western Conference for much of the season.

They have won two straight and own a 6-5 record since a

double-overtime loss Feb. 26 in Miami.

Sacramento is 19-15 at home. That’s the most home wins for the

Kings in the last four seasons and they still have seven games left

at Sleep Train Arena.

”Our offense has gotten a lot better, we’re spacing the floor

and playing more unselfish,” Thomas said. ”And we’re really

getting dialed in on defense. We’ve been able to turn our defense

into our offense.”

Thomas preserved the victory at the end by crowding Timberwolves

point guard Ricky Rubio along the sideline and forcing him to give

up the ball with the clock running down.

Rubio managed to get the ball to Dante Cunningham, who missed a

3-point attempt with 1 second left that would have sent the game

into overtime.

”I just wanted to make it tough on him (Rubio),” Thomas said.

”I knew they needed a 3-point shot. Actually, I thought he still

had the ball. I don’t know how he got that pass off.”

The sequence came after Evans made a rare fourth-quarter

mistake, giving the Timberwolves the chance to tie the game. With

Sacramento leading by three, Evans knifed through the Minnesota

defense but a poor pass resulted in a turnover.

”At one point, Evans was doing everything – scoring and

assisting,” said Rubio, who scored eight fourth-quarter points.

”He played amazing today and their victory is because of

him.”

Nikola Pekovic had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the

Timberwolves, who have lost two straight and four of five.

Injury-plagued Minnesota has dropped 21 of 28 games since Jan. 8.

The Timberwolves have lost nine straight and 17 of 18 on the

road.

Rubio finished with 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds

for Minnesota, which beat the Kings twice this season. Derrick

Williams and Greg Stiemsma had 12 points apiece and Cunningham

added 11.

”Too many spurts by them,” Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said.

”It started at the end of the first half and then the third

quarter again. We gave them too many easy opportunities and too

many flat-out penetrations. That makes the game hard.”

DeMarcus Cousins had 15 points and 14 rebounds for Sacramento.

John Salmons added 13 and Patrick Patterson 11.

Rubio made a jumper and hit four free throws to cut the Kings’

lead to 99-97, but Evans ended a Kings scoring drought of

three-plus minutes with a basket, giving Sacramento a 101-97 lead

with 41 seconds remaining.

”I tried different lineups and finally found a group that kind

of gave us a little bit of power,” Kings coach Keith Smart said.

”Eventually, we found a group that took us over the hump

offensively. We pulled out a win after we didn’t have anything when

we started the game.”

There was also news off the court for the Kings on Thursday.

Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle have brought Vivek Ranadive aboard in a

move that should strengthen their bid to keep the team in

Sacramento.

Ranadive, the chairman and chief executive of TIBCO Software in

Palo Alto, Calif., appears to be the new leader in the bid to buy

the team. Ranadive also is a limited partner and vice chairman of

the Golden State Warriors. He would have to sell his share of the

Warriors if he became an owner with the Kings.

Sacramento is trying to keep the team and prevent it from being

sold to a Seattle group headed by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen

and Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

The NBA board of governors is expected to vote in mid-April on

the fate of the Kings.

Chase Budinger played for the first time since tearing the

meniscus in his left knee in Nov. 10 against Chicago. Budinger was

playing in only his seventh game this season and finished with nine

points in 18 minutes.

”It was a lot better than I expected,” Budinger said. ”I was

still a little nervous and got tired legs, especially in the second

half. But all and all, it felt pretty good.”

Thomas enjoyed a big first half and continued to give Minnesota

trouble in the third quarter. The feisty point guard scored eight

points and so did Evans to give Sacramento a 79-77 lead heading

into the fourth.

Trailing since early in the second quarter, the Kings took the

lead in the third quarter on a dunk by Cousins at the 3:02 mark.

The Kings trailed by four points at the half, but outscored the

Timberwolves 26-20 in the third quarter.

Pekovic got off to a fast start, scoring 11 points in the first

quarter and 13 by halftime in helping the Timberwolves to a 57-53

lead. Thomas had 14 points and Patterson added 11 for the

Kings.

”It’s a tough matchup against Pekovic,” said Cousins, who

outplayed the Minnesota center in the second half. ”He’s a big

strong guy and he’s a solid player.”

NOTES: Luke Ridnour is the only player on the Minnesota roster

not to miss a game this season. … Adelman guided the Kings for

eight seasons and the team had a winning record and made the

playoffs every year. The Kings haven’t had a winning season or gone

to the playoffs since he was fired after the 2005-06 season. .

Kings reserve forward James Johnson missed his fourth straight game

due to personal reasons. . Rubio scored only two first-half points,

but had six assists and five rebounds. … Minnesota had a 21-0

edge in second-chance points.