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Bibby provides key bucket for Kings

2/5/2002

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Point guard Mike Bibby has helped the
Sacramento Kings become a better team.

Bibby had 24 points, five assists and a key late basket Sunday,
and the Kings beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-107 for their
17th victory in 18 games.

Sacramento, which has the NBA's best record at 36-10, won in
Minneapolis for the first time since Jan. 28, 1997 -- a span of nine
games.

Bibby sealed the game by driving and flipping up a high, arching
shot over Kevin Garnett that made it 110-105 with 10.1 seconds
left.

"Someone asked me before the game what the difference in their
team is from last year," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said.

"No question -- it's Bibby."

Chris Webber had 31 points and 14 rebounds for the Kings,
including 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the third quarter.

Minnesota, led by Garnett's 32 points and 12 rebounds, lost for
the third time in 22 home games. Sacramento's 25-1 record at home
is the only one better in the league.

"Any road win is a good win," Bibby said. "We took our time
and let things come to us."

Bibby, who came to the Kings with Brent Price from the Grizzlies
in exchange for Jason Williams and Nick Anderson in a June trade,
has replaced Williams' often-erratic play at point guard with
consistency and leadership.

"The best compliment I can pay Mike is that we have a crazy
bunch of guys in here, and he blends right in," Webber said. "He
never gets rattled on the court, and now we'll get on the bus, and
he'll probably fall asleep."

Joe Smith added 22 points and nine rebounds for the
Timberwolves, who have lost five of eight. They were out of sync
offensively for most of the final three quarters (Wally Szczerbiak
missed the only shot he took in the fourth period) but got into the
most trouble by playing lax defense against the Kings. Sacramento
leads the league in scoring.

"We've got to get that defensive flow back," Garnett said.
"We're OK. When you lose, everyone and their Mama comes in the
huddle and puts the microphone in and asks what's going wrong. We
know we're capable of playing solid basketball."

Smith, mostly ineffective since returning Jan. 15 from a calf
injury that kept him out for eight games, scored six straight
points for Minnesota in a key stretch of the fourth quarter.

The home-court advantage wasn't working that well for Minnesota
until midway through the final period as the Timberwolves rallied
from a 12-point deficit.

Fans were infuriated when Vlade Divac tangled with Joe Smith on
a loose ball and flipped him over, drawing a flagrant foul with
6:19 left and firing up Smith.

Smith made two free throws and then two straight baskets to even
the game at 94 and cap a 17-5 run. After his tip-in tied it, Smith
caught the ball and emphatically pinned it to the floor before
running back up the court.

But the Kings pulled away and went up 107-103 with 1:13 left on
Peja Stojakovic's off-balance jumper, after Chauncey Billups had
cut the lead to two on a three-point play.

"This was a very important win," said Stojakovic, who scored
21. "Defense made the difference."

The Timberwolves took a 16-4 lead -- shooting 55 percent from the
floor in the first quarter -- but missed 30 of 47 shots over the
next two periods and fell behind by as many as 15 points in the
third.

The Kings made 13 of 17 shots in the third quarter. Webber put
Sacramento ahead 79-66 with an emphatic dunk after a Timberwolves'
turnover.

"This is the type of game that shows us just how good we can
be," Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. "They're one of the best
teams in the West, and they will be all year long. They really came
at us."

Game notes
Anthony Peeler had 13 of his 15 points in the second half
for Minnesota. ... The Kings began a stretch of four road games in
five days. They'll play East-leading New Jersey on Monday. ... The
visiting team won in this series for the first time in seven games,
the last coming on April 7, 2000, when Minnesota won at Sacramento.