MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – For the first time in seven years, the Sacramento Kings are 1-0.
The Minnesota Timberwolves’ performance was much more familiar, including Kevin Love on the bench and defensive breakdowns all over the place.
Carl Landry had 22 points and 11 rebounds and the Kings held off the Timberwolves 117-116 on Wednesday night.
“It was a great season-opening game,” said Kings point guard Beno Udrih, who had 18 points and six assists in place of the suspended Tyreke Evans. “The last two years, we’ve been 0-3, 0-4 and we’ve been basically chasing that .500. This year we start with a win and hopefully we can get a couple more on this road trip.”
Francisco Garcia scored 22 points and rookie DeMarcus Cousins had 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Kings, who started on the road for seventh straight season. They had lost their previous six season openers.
Luke Ridnour had 20 points and six assists and Anthony Tolliver added 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocks for Minnesota in a back-and-forth, entertaining opener for both teams.
“In this league, you’ve got to play defense,” said Ridnour, whose Wolves allowed 45 percent shooting and sent the Kings to the free throw line for 45 attempts. “All preseason, that’s kind of what carried us and we hung our hat on. It seems like once the lights came on we just didn’t execute and do the same things we’ve done all preseason.”
Love, who appeared poised for a breakout year after an impressive preseason, played less than 9 minutes in the second half because coach Kurt Rambis preferred Tolliver’s energy and defense.
“He’s made it obvious to everybody that if you play hard, you’re going to play and if you play defense, you’re going to play,” Tolliver said.
Love, who fumed openly last season at his sixth man role, was not available for comment after the game. He finished with 11 points and 10 boards. Rambis said the decision had more to do with Tolliver’s exceptional play than anything Love was doing wrong.
Landry converted a three-point play and knocked down a baseline jumper to give the Kings a 111-107 lead going into the final minute of play.
Ridnour hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one with 56.6 seconds to go, but Beno Udrih fed Omri Casspi for a dunk and hit four free throws to seal the win.
“Road wins are how you measure good teams and we had a really hard time winning on the road last year,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “That’s one of our big goals this year.”
The Kings were playing without star point guard Tyreke Evans, who was serving a one-game suspension for pleading no-contest to reckless driving. Center Samuel Dalembert also missed the game with a strained groin.
The Wolves were short-handed themselves, playing without Martell Webster (back) and Jonny Flynn (hip). Rookie Wes Johnson, the fourth overall pick from Syracuse, has been slowed all preseason with a hamstring injury and was limited to 18 minutes.
Michael Beasley was quiet through the first three quarters, with just eight points and one rebound before coming alive in the fourth. He had nine points and six rebounds to keep the Wolves in it.
The highly anticipated matchup between lottery picks Johnson and No. 5 pick Cousins didn’t play as big a role in the outcome as many thought it would.
Cousins, who left Kentucky after his freshman season, was in foul trouble early and had just five points and four rebounds at halftime before turning it on late.
“When the game is tight and the game’s on the line, I want to make the plays,” Cousins said. “I want to have the ball in my hands, I want to make the decisions. Coach is on the same page.”
Johnson played well, scoring 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting. But Rambis was careful with the prized rookie’s minutes in hopes of avoiding further injury to his hamstring.
Cousins spoke earlier in the preseason about wanting to show the four teams who passed on him what a big mistake they made on draft night. He backed off those comments at the shootaround on Wednesday morning, saying, “I’m not even trying to get into all that.”
He didn’t have to wait long to get into it. The Timberwolves picked fourth on that June night, choosing the swingman over the center.
When asked if he had had a chance to speak to Johnson yet, Cousins’ competitiveness came through.
“No I haven’t,” he said with a scowl. “We’re not friends right now. I’m here to play ball. We’ll talk later on. We’ve got plenty of time for that.”
NOTES: Westphal said he wasn’t sure when Dalembert would be able to play in a game. He said he would be evaluated after practice on Thursday. … Wolves backup PG Sebastian Telfair had 15 points and six assists. … Wolves C Darko Milicic blocked four shots in 24 minutes but picked up a costly technical foul in the fourth quarter when he swatted the ball into the scorer’s table after being whistled for a foul.