Kings hold off Timberwolves behind Casspi
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) Omri Casspi's playing time has increased since George Karl took over as Sacramento's coach during the All-Star break.
Casspi's production is picking up, too.
Casspi scored 16 of his career-high 31 points in the third quarter and the Kings overcame a sluggish start to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-111 on Tuesday night.
The Kings gave up 31 points in the first quarter and were misfiring offensively until Casspi and Rudy Gay got going to help Sacramento end its five-game losing streak.
''I'm happy we won the game more than anything,'' Casspi said. ''I got in a good rhythm and I wasn't forcing shots. It felt good.''
Casspi was sidelined with a left knee injury earlier in the season and has been in and out of the starting lineup since. He's been a regular in Karl's lineup and is averaging 15.3 points over his last five games.
Casspi went 12 of 20 from the floor and made four 3-pointers, three in the pivotal third quarter. Gay had 33 points, seven rebounds and five assists in his first game back after suffering a concussion last week.
''I enjoyed the offense after the first quarter,'' Karl said. ''We had good ball movement and Omri got hot in the third quarter and made some big 3s for us.''
Sim Bhullar, Sacramento's 7-foot-5 center, made history when he checked in for the final 16.1 seconds, becoming the first player of Indian descent to play in an NBA game.
Casspi, who is the first Israeli-born player in the NBA, told his teammate to savor the moment.
''I told him to enjoy the ride,'' Casspi said. ''You got 2 billion Indians looking up to you. Be the best role model you can be and have fun with it.''
Derrick Williams added 18 points off the bench and made a 19-foot jumper with 3:25 remaining after Minnesota had trimmed a 19-point deficit to 106-100.
''I think we're a little worrisome with some of the decisions we make,'' Karl said. ''It got better as the game went on ... but still too many irresponsible decisions.''
Kevin Martin matched his season high of 37 points and had eight assists for the Timberwolves.
Sacramento won despite being without leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins. The 6-foot-11 center sat out with a sore right foot.
It didn't matter much.
After giving up 31 points in the first 12 minutes, Sacramento's defense held Minnesota to just 43 points over the next two quarters on the way to completing a season sweep of the Timberwolves.
''We just didn't set the tone early enough,'' Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. ''We made it interesting. As bad as we played, from the perspective of not rebounding the ball and shooting a high percentage for most of the game, it was basically a three-possession game.''
Ray McCallum scored 13 points and Andre Miller added four points and eight assists for the Kings.
Zach LaVine had 21 points and 11 assists for Minnesota.
The Kings trailed by eight at the end of the first quarter. Gay turned things around quickly for Sacramento with 10 points as part of a 17-4 run in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the second period that put the Kings up 40-35.
Reggie Evans later capped a fast break with an emphatic one-handed dunk, and Gay added a free throw to make it 54-49 at halftime.
Timberwolves: Nikola Pekovic will undergo surgery Wednesday on his right Achilles tendon.
Kings: Sacramento shot 62.5 percent in the first quarter but committed nine turnovers. ... Carl Landry sat out the game while serving a one-game NBA suspension for coming off the bench during an on-court altercation against Utah on Sunday. ... First-round pick Nik Stauskas aggravated a mid-back strain and did not play in the second half.
Timberwolves: At Portland on Wednesday.
Kings: At Utah on Wednesday.