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Kings edge Timberwolves in home opener without Miller

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Although the Sacramento Kings have a
new coach and a novel defensive intensity, they share one strong
quality with their high-scoring predecessors.

The Kings still draw strength from their frenzied sellout crowds
-- particularly when they've been away for a while.

Ron Artest had 22 points and eight rebounds, and Kevin Martin
added 19 points in the Kings' 93-81 victory over the Minnesota
Timberwolves on Monday night in the NBA's last home opener.

John Salmons and Shareef Abdur-Rahim had 13 points apiece for
the Kings, who never trailed in new coach Eric Musselman's first
game at Arco Arena after opening the season with a tough three-game
road trip that began with a loss in Minnesota five days earlier.

With an impressive third quarter and strong play down the
stretch, the Kings easily snapped the Timberwolves' five-game
winning streak in Sacramento. These Kings don't yet score with the
same grace showed by the teams led by Chris Webber and Peja
Stojakovic, but change was good in the opener.

"You've got to give the home people something to cheer about,"
Musselman said. "That's with energy and pushing the ball and
playing defense. We tried ... to get the crowd involved. We didn't
want them sitting on their hands."

The Kings' 314th consecutive capacity crowd welcomed Musselman,
who replaced Rick Adelman after eight straight winning seasons and
playoff appearances. The fans saw largely the same rotation as last
season's club, but with a whole new emphasis on active defense.

Kenny Thomas provided several exciting plays with 10 points, 11
rebounds and strong defense on Kevin Garnett for the Kings, who
have won eight of their last nine home openers, and 16 of 22 since
moving to Sacramento.

"When they started to make a run, we didn't react to it," said
Garnett, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds. "We can't blame
anything on fatigue, because they've been traveling, too. We know
at home they're a different team, and they play with a lot more
energy."

Mike James scored 23 points for the Timberwolves, who beat
Sacramento 92-83 in Minneapolis last week. Minnesota has lost
consecutive games to Portland and Sacramento on a four-game road
trip that concludes Tuesday against the Lakers.

"It's what I describe as a stinker," Timberwolves coach Dwane
Casey said. "We didn't attack their intensity, and I think we just
sleepwalked. Sacramento brought their 'A' game. I thought we
brought our 'B' game."

Garnett scored two quick baskets early in the fourth quarter to
trim the Kings' lead to nine points, but the Timberwolves star
briefly left the game with 8 minutes to play after landing
awkwardly while avoiding Artest's defense on a layup.

Garnett returned moments later, but Minnesota was in the midst
of more than 4 minutes without a basket after his layup. Sacramento
scored nine straight points to clinch it, capped by Salmons'
3-pointer with 3:51 to play.

"It was all right, but we're trying to get better," Thomas
said. "It feels good to get to .500. Hopefully we can keep getting
better."

Not everything went well for Sacramento on Monday: Before the
game, the Kings learned three-time All-Star center Brad Miller will
miss at least a month while recovering from a torn muscle in his
left foot.

Abdur-Rahim held his own in the paint while starting in place of
Miller, who had largely struggled since returning from Japan, where
he played for the U.S. national team this summer.

"Brad being out right now, that's very difficult," Thomas
said. "Everybody has to play harder on defense to make up for
it."

Game notes
Sacramento was the only NBA team to open with three
consecutive road games. Each of its first three opponents was
playing its home opener. ... After playing twice in five days, the
teams don't meet again until Jan. 31. ... Mike Bibby scored 10
points for the Kings, leaving him eight short of 10,000 in his
career.