Despite a record worse than Stevie Wonder's baseball career, Minnesota isn't as bad as they look. Mind you, they look really, really bad. Being "not as bad" as that isn't saying a whole lot. Mikki Moore is a better rebounder than Andrea Bargnani, you know? The Wolves are still 1-5 in December. But only one of those losses (last night's visit to the Lakers) have been by a 10-point or greater margin. Progress!
Seriously, though, Kevin Love's return has meant a lot. Love's been back five games, and he's shoved Al Jefferson back to center and Ryan Hollins down in the rotation. (Blessed Earth!) Hollins is basically Moore, but younger and less endearing. As we know from experience, you cannot boast a starter as bad at rebounding for his position as Hollins and survive defensively. Of course, the Jefferson/Love frontline -- while beastly on the boards -- hasn't proven to be a defensive wall. No matter. Love is a big boost from all angles.
Love should make the Kings work on Sacramento's own defensive glass. That's actually an optimistic way of saying that Love could very well end up with 10 offensive rebounds. The Kings still have problems there, problems the team may soon need to accept, supposing Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes are the frontcourt of now and tomorrow. Tyreke Evans and Andres Nocioni are rebounding defensively as well as you could reasonably ask for ... and the team is still 20th in the league in this category.
Luckily, the Wolves are phenomenally bad on offense: 28th in shooting, 29th in turnovers and 29th in foul drawing. Sacramento's weakness is defense; Minnesota should have trouble exploiting that. The Wolves have scored 100 points all of five times this season. Sacramento might be a good opportunity for No. 6, but it's always a struggle with the Wolves.
THE KEY BATTLE
Jason Thompson vs. Kevin Love. As stated, keeping Love off the offensive glass as much as possible will be a key. But further, Thompson needs to exploit his (massive) size advantage here. Love nor Jefferson block shots with any regularity, so the Kings -- led by Thompson in the post -- should attack attack attack. On the other end, Love is most dangerous cleaning up at the rim. Thompson has done better defending the rim, but again (broken record): it comes down to boxing him out and securing those plentiful Wolves misses.
I didn't make Evans vs. Jonny Flynn the key battle because, well, Flynn's going to need a bunch of help to slow Evans. But remember how high Sacramento's front office had been on Flynn. If Evans had gone #2 or 3, there's a real chance the Kings could have spent the 4th pick on Flynn. In that sense, seeing how far Flynn how to grow while Evans excels (at a younger age, no less) is striking. And will be striking.
Corey Brewer will have more steals than Mario Elie.
Kings by 12.
7PM Pacific on Comcast SportsNet and KHTK 1140AM.