SACRAMENTO -- Remember those fabulous springtime evenings not that long ago, when the Timberwolves and Kings engaged in a seven-game playoff series that wonderfully went the distance?
Neither probably does anybody who watched the Kings outlast the Wolves 100-93 on Saturday night at Arco Arena.
Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac, Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell all are long gone. Even Mike Bibby went missing Saturday because of a thumb injury that will keep him from the court for the season's opening weeks.
Instead, two former contenders have become completely remade franchises with their best days far, far ahead of them. Mark Madsen is the only Wolf remaining from that 2004 team. Only Bibby and big man Brad Miller survive to play again for the Kings.
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The Wolves' season-opening losing streak reached five games -- one shy of a franchise-worst, six-game losing streak that opened the 1994-1995 season -- on Saturday.
That's when the Kings, missing both Bibby and suspended star Ron Artest, won for the second time in six games this season with a lineup that featured John Salmons, Quincy Douby and, of course, that unforgettable former Timberwolf, Beno Udrih.
In the absence of Bibby and Artest, guard Kevin Martin has stepped forth of the Kings and on Saturday he delivered a 29-point performance that overshadowed Wolves forward Al Jefferson's season-opening, fifth-consecutive double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds).
But it was Udrih, a Timberwolf for only a moment in time two weeks ago, who delivered the dagger with 47 seconds left in the game, when he extended the Kings' lead back to three points with an outside jumper just after Rashad McCants' 3-pointer had pulled the Wolves within a point, 94-93.
"The kid made a big shot at the end," coach Randy Wittman said of Udrih, who was acquired by the Wolves in a trade before the season and was waived before playing a game. "The kid made a play. We've got to learn to do that."
The Wolves' lopsided relationship with free throws continued Saturday. The Kings' shot 40 free throws, making 34, to the Wolves' 24 attempts, of which they made 18.
And even when the Wolves managed to get to the free-throw line, things went badly. Theo Ratliff went hard to the basket in the third quarter, drew a foul and got a two-handed slam to bound around the basket and fall, presumably a chance for a three-point play.
After the officials conferred, they ruled what official Jim Clark told the scorer's table was a "rare" play: They said Ratliff hung on the rim as he was fouled and disallowed the basket but gave Ratliff two free throws. He missed both but was given a second chance on the second shot because of a lane violation and made that.