Yes, the Minnesota Timberwolves are not a very good defensive team. Yes, they were also missing pretty much every NBA-level big man on their team. Yes, the Sacramento Kings were also down plenty of scorers so there was a lot of shots available for the taking. That shouldn't take anything away from Omri Casspi's career-setting night, which helped the Kings vanquish the Tankerwolves 116-111.
Casspi scored 31 points on 20 shots, including 4/7 from three point range. He was able to get out in transition, but was also dynamic in the halfcourt by carving up the Timberwolves interior defense and making practically everything he was throwing up from three point range. One thing the Kings have been able to count on all year is all-out effort from Casspi every night, and although he can frustrate by trying to do too much, the consistent drive is a sight for Kings fans' sore eyes.
He did get help from the other two combo forwards on the Kings roster. Rudy Gay fought through rust and lingering effects of his concussion to score a Kings-high 33 points on only 17 shots, adding 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Rudy looked out of sync at times; he had five turnovers, and at least three of them were passes directly to a Timberwolf. But Rudy used his size and length inside to stay efficient anyways, bullying rookie sensation Andrew Wiggins in the post, who lacked the bulk to defend Rudy adequately. Derrick Williams also bounced back from 48 hours of Coke Machine jokes to once again show up his old team with some more highlight reel dunks and jumpers to score 18 points on 12 shots. But, more importantly, he also asserted himself on the glass, grabbing 8 rebounds in his 31 minutes of playing time.
Defensively, the Kings had major issues defending yet another shooting guard. Kevin Martin tied a season high with 37 points, scoring in all of the ways Kings fans remember from his time in Sacramento. Martin practically fouled out Ben McLemore single-handedly, marching to the free throw line 11 times. It was a good lesson for the young McLemore, who must become smarter on the defensive end. I'm starting to lose count of all the shooting guards that are notching season/career highs against the Kings. The Wolves also got a boost from Andrew Wiggins, who showed flashes of brilliance mixed in with rookie mistakes, yet still scoring 26 points on 20 shots. Wiggins has haunted the Kings all year. Zach LaVine was also very impressive, scoring 21 points and dishing 11 assists while showing off some slick moves in the paint.
The Kings are now only one win away from tying last season's total. With only five games left, the Kings now are left to these minor milestones to get them into the offseason.
- Congratulations Sim Bhullar, first ever NBA player of Indian descent! Even if it was for 16 seconds
- Pete D'Alessandro and Vlade Divac were seen sitting courtside together on camera. It's going to be a very interesting offseason for the Kings, as there are rumors of major roster and front office upheaval abound.
- The Timberwolves backup point guard Arinze Onuaku is such a mystery that he doesn't even have an NBA.com player page.
- Ray McCallum notched a career-high 9 rebounds tonight. Unfortunately he struggled to shoot the ball again tonight, going 5/13 from the field and 2/6 from three point range.
- If Derrick Williams played the Timberwolves every game he'd be an All-Star. George Karl challenged him to rebound the ball better, and he did grab 8, but his effort and intensity doing the non-highlight reel things on the court like defense and rebounding has been awful, even under Karl's reign where he's become a solid scorer off the bench. The talent is there, but it just may be too late for him to earn a second contract with the Kings, or another NBA team for that matter.
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