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Sacramento Kings (8-15) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (12-12)
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Last game: Minnesota: W, 100-91 vs Houston, Sacramento: 100-92 vs New Orleans
Minnesota finally reached .500 defeating Houston 100-91 on Saturday night, but it came at a hefty price: the loss of Kevin Love for two games after he accidentally/on purpose stepped on Luis Scola’s face and chest. Love had 25 points and 18 rebounds in the Timberwolves victory, while Ricky Rubio contributed 13 points and 11 assists.
The Kings continued their two game winning streak by beating the Hornets yesterday in New Orleans, largely thanks to the beastly contributions of Demarcus Cousins, who scored 28 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in the win.
The Key Questions
#1. Umm, how are the Timberwolves supposed to get a win without Kevin Love?
Easy. Derrick Williams/Michael Beasley just need to play good, consistent basketball for four quarters filling in for him. They will need to take good shots, avoid the mid-range game whenever possible, post up when they can, and focus on getting to the hoop and drawing fouls. They will need to take threes only when they are open, get a lot of rebounds, and make great outlet passes.
#2. What will the Pekovic/Cousins matchup look like?
Cousins is considerably more talented than Darko. He is also more talented than Pek, but the biggest difference between Pek and Darko is Pekovic’s sheer, brutish strength down low. Cousins may find himself in more of a matchup struggle tonight. Pekovic’s personal fouls per 36 minutes have also gone down from a whopping 7.3 (meaning Pek would more than foul out in less than an entire game every time he was on the floor…) to a less whopping 4.9. Still a lot of fouls, but definitely a vast improvement.
#3. With Kevin Love out, who will step up for Minnesota?
Last time these two teams met, the Wolves were spurred on by Kevin Love’s 33-11 (not surprising) and Luke Ridnour’s 25 points and 9 assists (really really really surprising). The Wolves backcourt, in comparison to Sacramento’s, is severely undersized, but they came through big back in January. Hopefully we see another big performance.
The Key Matchups
We already discussed Pekovic vs Cousins. One of the biggest advantages Minnesota will have, as usual, is depth. Barea wasn’t playing last time these two met, so his return should help quite a bit.
Derrick Williams could do wonders for himself tonight with a big game. It would probably earn him some more minutes in the rotation, since Kevin Love has been playing almost 40 minutes per game (39.4). Williams could also do wonders for Minnesota if the Wolves are considering him as trade bait by making some real contributions apart from awesome Rubioop highlights.
Even without Love, this is a very winnable game. The Kings have a two game winning streak, but both wins came at the hands of mediocre teams (Golden State and New Orleans). If the Wolves can avoid a slow shooting start, they very well could go OVER .500.
That would be a really weird feeling.
Game starts at 7 on Fox Sports North