As of 10:53 PM ET on Friday December 23rd, the Sacramento Kings have sole possession of the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Ok, now that we have that out of the way.
The Kings were forced to play without Rudy Gay again tonight. Omri Casspi was reportedly good to go, but for whatever reason didn’t see any action. Despite Gay’s absence, this was a winnable game for the Kings. I’d equate it to the Mavericks loss last week, a game the Kings need to win if they want to make this playoff push, but a game they so often lose. It wasn’t pretty, but the Kings finally got that they should win this game win, outlasting the Timberwolves 109-105.
The Sacramento Kings started this game off looking like the superior basketball team. They played tough, physical defense for most of the first quarter. DeMarcus Cousins got a couple of clean deflections on Karl-Anthony Towns, and the Wolves looked visibly frustrated. Tom Thibodeau was all over the officials because of the Kings’ physicality, eventually earning himself a technical foul. That’s a great spot to be in if you’re the Kings. For the first time in a long time, it was their opponent that was picking up unnecessary technical fouls and complaining to the officials.
Kosta Koufos, of all people, carried the Kings’ offensive load early because of how crisp the ball movement was in the first quarter. The Wolves threw some aggressive double teams at Boogie in that opening quarter, but the Kings handled it about as well as you could expect.
The Kings’ bench failed them in the first half. They just couldn’t score. On the other end, Zach LaVine got about as hot as a player has been against the Kings this season, and that’s saying something. Before you knew it, LaVine and the Wolves had taken control of the game. LaVine dropped two deep, heat-check threes to end the half, and there’s your Wolves lead at halftime.
A quick note on Karl-Anthony Towns -
Karl-Anthony Towns is incredible. Duh. The Kings have been a poor rebounding team all season, so I should’ve expected this going in, but Towns was a monster on the glass. He also made a Boogie-esque coast-to-coast layup that a man his size should not be able to make. DeMarcus Cousins’ skill and touch with the motor of Kenneth Faried, I don’t know how you stop that.
Both the Kings and the Wolves looked a bit sluggish to start the second half, but a pair of DeMarcus Cousins three-pointers pulled the Kings back within reach. They even took a third quarter lead before Cousins subbed out, resulting in another Wolves run that was capped off by a Ricky Rubio three, giving the Wolves their first double-digit lead.
The Kings fought back thanks to a much-improved run by the bench unit and Boogie. Anthony Tolliver’s three-point shooting kept the Kings within distance on multiple occasions. Ty Lawson was spectacular in the second half. He created multiple transition opportunities that the Kings just weren’t getting in first half. He was looking for his own offense, and as we saw two nights ago in Utah, he can be a huge bench weapon when he does that.
With the way the Kings and Wolves traded the lead all night, it felt like this one was going to go down to the wire, and that’s exactly what happened. Zach LaVine was up to 39 points with about three minutes remaining. The Wolves didn’t have anything else going offensively, so if the Kings could just contain LaVine, they’d be in decent shape.
That is more or less what happened. The Kings buckled down on LaVine, but what really helped the Kings down the stretch was a pair of wide-open Karl-Anthony Towns three-point attempts that just didn’t fall. I wouldn’t say the Kings stole this one, but they were very fortunate to walk away with this win without having to make any huge offensive plays in crunch time. On the road and shorthanded, though, that is perfectly good win.
Don’t look now, but that’s three-straight wins for the good guys heading into the holiday weekend.
Don’t look now, part deux -