Its pretty much religious doctrine at this point that the Sacramento Kings have to make every game as difficult as possible, win and loss alike. So its not really all that surprising that the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team rocking a 5-25 record on the year, gave the Kings all they could handle down to the very end. Thankfully, while the Kings aren't a team known for its sharp execution, the young Wolves are incredibly raw and the resulting blunder-off to end the game resulted in a Kings victory by the score of 110-107.
Another day, another starting power forward for the Kings. This time Derrick Williams got the nod, which given his career-long tendency to explode every time the opponent's jersey reads "Wolves" and that the Wolves start the tweener Thaddeus Young at PF, wasn't a bad idea in theory. Williams responded with a strong offensive outing, shooting the ball well on the night on his way to 17 points on 6/10 shooting (3/6 from three). The key to Williams at PF, however, is always defense and rebounding. Williams didn't rebound too well on the night, only grabbing five overall, but did play solid defense on Young and the Wolves lost the battle on the boards. The problems with Williams came when he was switched over to shooting guard in a very big lineup, where the Wolves repeatedly took advantage of his lackadaisical attitude and lack of lateral quickness.
Otherwise, the Kings starting lineup again had a strong night. Every starter had a double digit positive +/- except for DeMarcus Cousins, who was +9 on the night, but did add 19 points 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Cousins, unfortunately, was limited to 26 minutes by foul trouble and fouled out with 2:46 remaining in the game. Rudy Gay had one of the oddest games I've ever seen. On one hand, he was getting anywhere he wanted to offensively, scoring an easy 21 points on 7/12 shooting and adding 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Unfortunately, Gay also had a career high 8 turnovers, and it wasn't the Wolves playing great defense; it was some mindnumbingly stupid stuff. Gay also was atrocious defensively, letting Andrew Wiggins get loose for 27 points, again; the first time Wiggins played against the Kings, he had 29 points. Darren Collison was quiet in the first half but came alive in the second, finishing with 21 points and six assists. He helped the Kings close the game out with heady play. Ben McLemore also peppered in 14 points on 6/9 shooting while playing some pretty solid defense on the night minus some miscues.
The Kings' bench continues to be a work in progress. Every bench player was a minus in the +/- ledger, and most of the issues were defensively. While it was rare to see five-man bench units on the court, usually starters would be forced out of position to give other starters a breather, such as seeing McLemore in at SF and Williams at SG. Carl Landry was passable on the night, chipping in 8 points and 9 rebounds while also not getting completely annihilated by Young, which is a minor miracle. Jason Thompson came in off the bench at center behind Cousins and was both good and bad from play to play, certainly nothing noteworthy enough to reclaim his starting position. The two young guards, Ray McCallum and Nik Stauskas, struggled to add anything
It will be interesting to see now what Tyrone Corbin does with the power forward position going forward. Williams may have worked out tonight but its unclear whether his lack of rebounding and defense will be a problem against better teams. On the other hand, he wasn't a huge problem defensively when he lined up at power forward and the team together can mitigate his rebounding deficiencies because both Cousins and Gay are plus rebounders for their positions. It sounds a little more NBA 3.0-ish to have Williams as the PF going forward, as I recall when the Kings traded for Gay the Kings insisted both Gay and Willimas could play together. The Kings next play Sunday at 3pm against the Detroit Pistons, who have a very big frontcourt, so things are about to get interesting.
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