SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves entered Arco Arena as one of the NBA's hottest teams. They left as the latest believers in the Sacramento Kings and their impressive
Chris Webber scored 30 points and Peja Stojakovic added 23 Tuesday night as the Kings kept picking up speed for the postseason, beating the Timberwolves 122-103 for their ninth straight win.
Kevin Garnett had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota, which lost for just the second time in eight games. As the Timberwolves fell irretrievably behind in the second quarter, Garnett wore the same look of frustration and apprecation that's been on nearly every Sacramento opponent's face in recent weeks.
"I was pretty angry at myself," Garnett said. "I played
terrible. We can't come out like that against one of the best teams
in the league ... but there's a reason they've got the best record
in the NBA. They're playing at a high level right now, and we're
not up there. Nobody's up there."
Mike Bibby had 15 points as NBA-leading Sacramento's magic number for clinching home-court advantage throughout the playoffs was reduced to two. With two victories in their final five games, the Kings (58-19) also would earn their first division title since moving to Northern California in 1985.
About the only person in the building not sold on the
performance was Webber.
"I think we can play better," he said. "We'll need to in the playoffs."
Doug Christie had 10 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as
the Kings improved to an NBA-best 35-4 at home with an overwhelming
run in the second quarter and a steady second half. Sacramento has
won its last nine games by an average of more than 17 points.
"We're playing really well right now at both ends of the floor," Stojakovic said. "We're really getting into the flow of the game. I think we've reached the level of play we want. Now, we have to maintain it."
Sacramento took control with a 27-11 run over nine minutes in the second quarter, sparked by eight points apiece from Vlade Divac
and Scot Pollard. Stojakovic then scored nine straight points for the Kings early in the third quarter.
As with the majority of the Kings' home games this season, the
outcome never really seemed in doubt. Sacramento passed the ball
with flair and defended well alongside Christie, who made three
steals and harassed Wally Szczerbiak into a difficult night.
The Kings shot 56 percent, including 14-of-19 by Webber and
9-of-15 for Stojakovic.
"They moved the ball well, and they've got lots of good
shooters," said Minnesota's Joe Smith, who had just six points in
25 minutes. "When they're playing like that, it's like they've got six or seven guys out there."
Szczerbiak scored 16 points and Rasho Nesterovic had 15 for
Minnesota. The Timberwolves remained two games ahead of Portland,
which lost at Dallas earlier Tuesday, for fifth place in the
The Wolves will make the postseason for the sixth consecutive season, but they still haven't had home-court advantage -- or won a playoff series. They could face San Antonio, Dallas or even the Los Angeles Lakers, depending on the outcome of the regular season's final week.
The Kings seem likely to face Utah, which lost to the Lakers earlier Tuesday. Sacramento could clinch the division with road games at Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers later this week.
Minnesota (48-30) needs three victories in its final four
games to finish with the best record in franchise history. The
Wolves went 50-32 in 1999-00. ... The Kings recorded more than 20
assists in their ninth straight game while scoring more than 100
points for the fifth straight game. ... Minnesota C Marc Jackson served his one-game suspension for a flagrant foul against Golden
State's Bob Sura on Monday night. ... The Kings beat Minnesota at Arco Arena for the fourth straight time. ... Every Kings player scored except Chucky Brown, who passed up a late layup to make a pass to rookie Gerald Wallace. ... Garnett had his 56th double-double of the season.