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Sacramento Kings (15-29) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (22-23)
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Last game: Minnesota: L, 97-92 vs Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento W, 120-95 vs Boston
Don’t let the final score fool you: Minnesota put forth a good effort, but they were badly outmatched by the Lakers on Friday. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic combined for 47 points, but they needed 42 shots. Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant torched the Wolves for 28 points, which included 5-8 shooting from behind the arc. Every time Minnesota made something that resembled a run, the Lakers seemed to have an answer.
Meanwhile the Kings badly outplayed the Boston Celtics in Sacramento. Marcus Thornton dropped a season high 36 points, leading Sacramento on an easy route of the C’s, who didn’t really show up for the game.
The Key Questions
#1. Can the Wolves steal a game on the road?
Minnesota’s record away from the Target Center this season is respectable, at 10-11. But the Kings, despite being 15-29 overall, are actually 11-9 at home. The combination of young talent and a home crowd makes the Kings a surprisingly tough matchup in Sacramento.
#2. Why are Luke Ridnour’s absurd assist totals not translating into wins?
I may well make this into a full length post later this week, but for now, note this: Ridnour’s assist totals over the past four games are 10, 9, 13 and 11, while the Wolves have gone 1-3. Minnesota is certainly struggling since Rubio went out for the season, but the struggles aren’t due to a drop-off in point guard play.
Not a question so much, but something I find funny: in Friday’s game against the Celtics, a blow out mind you, rookies Jimmer Fredette and Tyler Honeycutt played the same number of minutes (10) and made the same number of shots (1). In related news, Jimmer was the 10th pick in the draft, while Honeycutt was selected in the second round, 35th overall. Hope you enjoyed your college glory days, Jimmer.
The Key Matchups
Pekovic is what DeMarcus Cousins dreams of at night when he watches a scary movie and takes too much Nyquil. Strong, steady and fundamental, Pek ripped apart the Kings in February, shooting a tidy 9-12 from the field and scoring 23 points. By comparison, Cousins was 3-13 from the field for 10 points. DMC is used to using his brute strength and touch around the basket to his advantage, but, as so many other teams have learned this season, brute strength doesn’t really work against Pek.
Kevin Love missed February’s matchup, but he dropped 33 on the Kings earlier this season. Jason Thompson is an athletic defender, but he struggles, like many others, to defend Love’s range and versatility.
Little Isaiah Thomas has been one of the biggest rookie surprises of the season. Taking his Mr. Irrelevance title personally, Thomas has been proving himself a capable NBA point guard despite his height (5’8). Ridnour will need to stay alert, as Thomas is very quick, but Luke will probably enjoy being taller than an opponent for once.
The season remaining is short enough that I can say “must win”, right? Because tonight’s game (and tomorrow’s against Golden State) are must-win games for the Wolves if they want to stay in playoff contention. While Houston and Denver are still (remotely) catchable, Utah and Phoenix are both coming on strong. Today and tomorrow are winnable games, and to make the playoffs, Minnesota needs to start winning now.
Game starts at 5 on Fox Sports North