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April 15, 2009
Opening tip: The beginning and the end in Minnesota

Kings (16-63) at Minnesota (24-57)
Scoring: Kings 12th (100.6 point per game), Timberwolves 21st (97.9)
Shooting: Kings 25th (44.7 percent), Timberwolves 29th, (44.2)
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (109.8 points), Timberwolves 22nd (102.77)
Shooting defense: Kings 30th (48.4 percent), Timberwolves 25th (47.4)
Rebound differential: Kings 29th (minus-4.97), Timberwolves 13th (plus-0.79)

The link: Timberwolves coverage in The Minneapolis Star Tribune (Story and preview) and the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Story). Kings coverage in The Bee (Voisin column on Joe Maloof's anger toward Kenyon Martin)

On this date in NBA history: On April 15, 2009, the Sacramento Kings became the first team in its franchise's 50-year history to finish a season with fewer than 19 wins.

***

MINNEAPOLIS - This is where it all began, where a two-point loss to the T-Wolves in the season opener wasn't considered so bad because Kevin Martin's shot was off (5 of 19), and because the Kings didn't have Brad Miller and because the young frontcourt of Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes had thoroughly impressed.

The promise wouldn't last long, not with the way they would be run off the floor against Miami, Orlando and Philadelphia during the rest of the road trip. For a night, though, they thought - they hoped - that maybe it wouldn't be such a bad season after all.

Headline YOUTH KEEPS SACRAMENTO CLOSE TO THE END

Origin Sam Amick samick@sacbee.com
Publication Date 10/30/2008
Page C1
Section SPORTS
Edition METRO FINAL
Dateline MINNEAPOLIS

The confidence should have been at an all-time high, what with Spencer Hawes looking more like Al Jefferson than Jefferson himself and the Kings in position to win largely because of it.

But with five seconds left Wednesday night at Target Center and the Kings trailing Minnesota and its dominant forward by two in their regular-season opener, Hawes took a pass from Beno Udrih at the free-throw line and was struck by a moment of indecisiveness. The second-year center dribbled once, then shoveled the ball back to Kevin Martin when he had nowhere to go.

Martin heaved the ball from the left wing and missed, John Salmons' putback fell short, and the Kings walked off the floor having done the same in a 98-96 loss.

"I should've shot it," said Hawes, who started in place of Brad Miller (five-game suspension). "I caught it, overpenetrated maybe a dribble ... I saw it, tried to take up a little slack, and (the lane) just closed quicker than I thought it would. I've just got to go with my game and hit the first one ... trust my instincts, I guess."

The Kings opened with a loss for the fifth consecutive season in the opposite style most anticipated. With so many wondering whether Martin would receive enough offensive assistance to complement his high-scoring ways this season, he had a 5-of-19 shooting night while the supporting cast was far more productive than even coach Reggie Theus could have expected.

While Jefferson turned in his standard performance (21 points, 10 rebounds) that Martin had joked he could do in his sleep, Hawes bested his counterpart with 12 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks that set a Sacramento-era record for a King on opening night.

Kings forward Jason Thompson became the franchise's first player to post a double double (18 points and 10 rebounds) in his NBA debut since Jerry Lucas tallied 23 points and 17 rebounds in 1963. Salmons added 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting.

Yet Martin was out of rhythm from start to finish. He went 0 of 5 in the fourth quarter, including an open jumper from the left wing with 26 seconds remaining that would have put the Kings up by one.

"It's one of them games where I'll forget about it quickly," said Martin, who ended with 17 points. "I cost us a couple buckets. It's just something I'll have to go back and look at on film, because I don't know what was going on there. I think tonight was just on me, personally."

This was opportunity lost for the obvious reason that it only gets tougher from here. Among Minnesota, Miami, Orlando and Philadelphia, no team faces lower expectations this season than the Timberwolves, who were 22-60 last season.

What's more, the Kings had four days in which to prepare for the opener yet will have two practice days jammed between the next three games.

Hawes didn't take long to look comfortable, scoring nine points in the first six minutes as the Kings went up 20-14. He hit his first four shots, Thompson followed with a layup for the six-point lead, and the notion of untested youth as a liability was nowhere to be found.

But the Kings gave up an 8-0 run late to trail 33-32 at the end of the first quarter. The run continued thereafter, as Jefferson scored 10 second-quarter points. Martin's 1-of-5 quarter had much to do with the Kings' 56-49 halftime deficit.

"It was a tough first half," Theus said. "I'd like to think the team who we are played more in the second half ... (when the Kings were) plus-12 in rebounding and (they trimmed the T-wolves') 42 points in the paint (in the first half) to 16. ... I'm encouraged because I think our guys saw that they're a better team than they played in the first half."

And Martin, quite certainly, can be better as well.

"If Kevin has any type of game at all, we beat this team," Theus said. "But it's a team game."

Read the Kings blog at www.sacbee.com/blogs

They thought it wouldn't be that bad. They were, of course, very wrong. - Sam Amick



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