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Kings vs Timberwolves Preview: How to Win in Minny

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The Kings have travelled to the frigid North, and are looking to leave the Wolves howling after their Thursday night skermish.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Minnesota Timberwolves Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

So here’s the deal. The Kings are in Minnesota to take on a revamped Timberwolves hungry and pulling at the leash for a playoff birth. Ricky Rubio, the fun loving, pass happy point guard is gone. So too is the high flying Zach Lavine and rookie point guard dud, Kris Dunn, and in their stead: somebody named Jimmy Butler, the ghost of Jeff Teague and a big frown on the face of anyone who loves fun. Minnesota’s head coach, Tom Thibodeau, is slowly getting back into his a-paw-ling minute distributions and while many fear this might end in disaster for any number of his best players, the fact is, the Wolves are winning games! Yeah, you read that right! Come for the inevitable Jerry Reynolds canine puns, stay to see the Kings inch closer to the largest playoff drought in the league! Let’s talk Kings basketball.

When: Thursday, December 14th; 5:00 pm PST

Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

TV: NBCSCA

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

Know Your ‘Sota: Coming into Thursday night’s game as the owners of a 16-12 record, the Timberwolves have found themselves with the fourth best record in the Western Conference and in a position to think about the playoffs for the first time since Kevin Love started doing knuckle push-ups to impress Nikola Pekovic in 2014. This iteration of the Wolves has found success based almost solely on their offensive output. At 107.3 points per game the Wolves are the 10th highest scoring team in the league, while running at the 9th slowest pace. Minny takes and makes the second most two point attempts in the league and does so shooting 51.1% from inside the arc, 12th best in the NBA. Their three point shooting is a bit of a weakness however; they don’t take that many (22.7 a game; 27th in the league) and that’s because they aren’t all that accurate when they do (35.4% 22nd in the league). The Wolves make up for those puppy like numbers by getting to the line at an elite rate: drawing the third most fouls in the NBA, getting to the line the third most in the NBA, and hitting the 7th highest percentage of their foul shots at 79%. They’re 5th in offensive rebounds at 10.9 per game, and 10th in assists. Not too shabby, right?

When I say a team has Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins I bet you imagine a good to great defensive team. All three of those guys came into the league with piles of defensive potential as their known attribute and the offense being that issue they had to work on. So surprise, surprise: the defense in Minny is as terrible as their offense is good. They’re 27th in the league in Defensive Rating, and I’d have to assume some of that stems from teams shooting an NBA worst 48.3% field goal percentage against the Wolves. Sacramento is going to get shots tonight, especially from inside the arc, where teams are shooting 54% on any given night. To add to this, the Wolves aren’t a good shot blocking team; 4th worst in the NBA at 3.6 a game and only KAT averaging more than .6 a game at 1.3. It’s nearly flabbergasting to see a team that is stocked full of defensive talent be this bad on that end of the floor, especially considering that Thibs is known as a defensive wonder. It’s not all bad for the Wolves, as they are 3rd in the NBA in steals and commit the second least amount of fouls in the league.

We also have to discuss his usage of his players a bit, as this will tie into tonight’s contest. The starting unit for the Timberwolves has logged 167 minutes more than the next highest used lineup in the NBA. Jimmy Butler is second in the NBA in minutes, Andrew Wiggins is sixth, KAT is 15th. Thibodeau’nt use that bench very much, apparently. Where this helps the Kings is that just a few nights ago the Timberwolves went into overtime against the Sixers and boy howdy, wouldn’t you know it but those starters all played over 38 minutes: Andrew Wiggins played 40 minutes. Jimmy Butler played 46 minutes. Karl Anthony Towns played FORTY EIGHT MINUTES. 28 games into the season, this might be fine. What about when the playoffs roll around? What about six years from now?

For the Kings to win tonight, they need to dictate the pace, and that pace should be fast. The Kings can open their rotation up for a game if they need to: Thibs only sees eight guys on his roster anyways. Run the Wolves into a fourth quarter collapse, take the shots that the Wolves happily give and then play solid defense. Bonus points for getting Karl-Anthony Towns into foul trouble.

Prediction: The Wolves go on strike. Thibs hires scabs to play from the stands. He plays that dad who always comes in complete uniform and headband 41 minutes. The dad has a coronary in the last two minutes of the game. The Kings win at the buzzer.

Kings 110, Wolves 109