The Kings got a dose of reality yesterday against the Pacers, but they don't have much time to linger on it as they face the Timberwolves in Minnesota tonight (5 p.m. Pacific, Comcast SportsNet California and 1140 KHTK). Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas were shut down by the Pacers and will look to bounce back. This will also be the first game back in Minnesota for Derrick Williams, who the Kings traded for back in November.
MATCHUP OF THE GAME
DeMarcus Cousins vs. Nikola Pekovic
Cousins did a great job against Roy Hibbert last night, scoring 31 points on an efficient 12-21 from the field in just 30 minutes. Pekovic, who isn't known as much of a defender and is not nearly the rim protector Hibbert is, should be an easier matchup. However, since entering the league, Cousins has struggled more against Pekovic than anyone in the entire league. In 10 games against the Wolves, Cousins is averaging just 11.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game. That is by far his lowest average against any team, and well off his current season averages of 23.5 points and 11.6 rebounds. Pekovic has done a phenomenal job in the past of denying Cousins position in the post. Pekovic will also prove a handful on the other end, where he's one of the most efficient scoring Centers in the league, averaging 18.3 points a game on 53% from the field.
1. The Timberwolves are better than their record indicates. According to their Expected Wins-Losses (which goes off of Point Differential) the Wolves should be 24-13. Instead they're 18-19, losing many close games. They have the 5th best offense in the NBA and the 9th best defense. Considering that they're fighting for a playoff spot, every game is meaningful for them and they're going to come out strong.
2. Unlike the Pacers, the Wolves want to push the pace and get out in transition. They're 2nd in the league in Pace and first in overall field goal attempts. The Kings are slightly above average in those areas but it'd behoove them to keep the Wolves from running all game.
3. Ricky Rubio came into the NBA with a lot of hype, but 3 years in and he hasn't really set himself apart. He's a great passer and is the best in the NBA at stealing the ball (4.1% steal rate, tops in the league two years running) but he's also shooting just 34.7% from the field and has never shot higher than 36.0% in a season. Interestingly, he's shooting better on threes (35.9%) than twos (34.3%).
Kevin Love and Cuz,
Two of the best bigs today.
Who comes out on top?
Wolves 124, Kings 113