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Kings vs Timberwolves Preview: Who’s Afraid of the Big, Mostly Bad Wolves?

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Two youth movements collide Monday night in Sacramento as the upstart Timberpups take on the Rookz-2-Kings. With young talent all over both ends of the court, the most disciplined team wins!

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Kings don’t have long to contemplate their long fall back to Earth after their blowout loss against Charlotte on Saturday; the Timberwolves are in town and looking for their first win against the Kings this season. Missing from their young core of potential superstars is the human highlight reel known as Zach Lavine, who will be out the rest of the season with a torn ACL, but don’t you worry about a lack of excitement from this game; Andrew Wiggins has been averaging 30 points per game since his running mates departure and won’t be looking at Sacramento’s small forward depth with fear in his eyes. Monday’s game also features a meeting of former Kentucky Wildcat teammates when Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein square off down on the block and while Karl-Anthony is the young center all the hype, his middle name isn’t Trill, so really, whose career trajectory is higher? It’s a meeting between two teams who are both looking to make a run and tank depending on what moment they’re currently in, so enjoy as chaos reins supreme on the Kings home court. First team to fifteen turnovers forfeits!

Let’s talk Kings basketball!

When: Monday, February 27th; 7:30 pm PST

Where: Golden 1 Center, CSN-CA, KHTK Sports 1140 AM

Matchup & Breakdown

Team Stats

Team Points Per Game Opp. PPG Pace Offensive Rtg Defensive Rtg 3 Pt % 2 Pt % Total Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Player Fouls
Team Points Per Game Opp. PPG Pace Offensive Rtg Defensive Rtg 3 Pt % 2 Pt % Total Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Player Fouls
Kings 102.9 (22nd) 105.5 (14th) 94.5 (27th) 107.8 (17th) 110.5 (23rd) 36.5% (12th) 49.7% (18th) 41.2 (26th) 22.6 (10th) 8.1 (9th) 4.1 (25th) 14.6 (22nd) 20.7 (23th)
Wolves 105.1 (17th) 105.9(19th) 94.7 (25th) 110.3 (10th) 111.2 (24th) 35.0% (21st) 50.8% (9th) 42.7(17th) 23.4 (5th) 7.8 (14th) 4.5 (21st) 14.4(20th) 20.3 (19th)

Opponent Stats

Team Opp FGM Opp FGA Opp FG% Opp 3PM Opp 3PA Opp 3P% Opp 2PM Opp 2PA Opp 2P% Opp Turnovers
Team Opp FGM Opp FGA Opp FG% Opp 3PM Opp 3PA Opp 3P% Opp 2PM Opp 2PA Opp 2P% Opp Turnovers
Kings 37.6 (9th) 81.5 (7th) 46.2% (21th) 11.1 (30th) 29.9 (28th) 37.2% (26th) 26.5 (3th) 51.6 (2nd) 51.3% (26th) 14.6 (11th)
Timberwolves 39.1 (21th) 83.1 (10th) 47.1% (27th) 9.9 (20th) 27.3 (19th) 36.1% (18th) 29.3 (17th) 55.8 (8th) 52.5% (29th) 14.2 (12th)

So What Does It All Mean?

If you’re looking at Coach Tom “Better Pull Up Google to Make Sure It’s Spelled Right” Thibodeau’s team and you have some questions about what exactly they’re doing, we’re in similar boats. Your oars are nicer though, so props to you. With all that youth and speed at his disposal you’d expect the Wolves to be higher than 25th in pace, and yet there they sit. Well, a lot of that has to do with Thib’s need to play those young guys a wild amount of minutes. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are currently in the top 7 minutes played, and before his injury, so was Zach Lavine. It’s easy to see why your guys aren’t constantly gunning it up the court when they’re playing 37.2 minutes per game.

With point guard Ricky Rubio leading the charge, the Timberwolves are fifth in the league in assists and tenth in the league in offensive rating. Bolstered by the young tandem of Towns and Wiggins averaging 24.0 and 23.4 points per game respectively, the Wolves find themselves in a predicament of finding a third scorer on any given night. Lavine is injured, Rubio for all the things he does do well couldn’t score consistently if he was paying for it and their only other guy to average over 10 points per game is the $64 million man himself, Gorgui Dieng at 10.2 points per game. Relief doesn’t come from the bench either: averaging only 22.3 points per game, the Wolves have the lowest scoring bench in the entire league.

For all the hype that came with the Wolves and the hiring of Thibodeau in the off-season, their ‘09-10 Thunder comparisons and their seemingly predetermined date with destiny (and the playoffs) this season didn’t take long to become a relative disappointment. Rookie point guard Kris Dunn has been a major disappointment, and for a guy who was sold as “NBA ready” he’s so far seemed out of his depths. The Timberwolves were practically begging for Dunn to make Ricky Rubio expendable from the day he was drafted, but so far, he’s been a deer in the headlights, not a good look for a rookie who is already older than KAT, Wiggins and Lavine.

At the end of the day, the Wolves just aren’t a very good team. They have nice pieces, (what I wouldn’t give for Towns, Wiggins, Lavine... Rubio) but the expectations came too fast and too soon. Thibodeau’s defense hasn’t taken hold on a team or individual level and when it does, he’ll have a choice of decreasing the minutes of those players around him, or run budding superstar talent into the ground like he did with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in Chicago. While the eye test seems to show a Timberwolves team far superior to the Kings, the paper and stats seem to show otherwise.

Kings Focus

The Kings focus tonight should be on trying to push the pace. With the degree to which Coach Thibodeau pushes his team to play tight defense and also refuses to let them rest, if the Kings can keep them on their heels by getting up the floor and moving the ball quickly, they might be able to gas Minnesota by the fourth quarter. Post All Star break, the Kings have shown that the quicker they move the ball, the greater success they’ll have. In both the Denver and Charlotte games, the Kings got in the most trouble when the ball stopped moving and isolation basketball started to take over.

One of the biggest factors in being able to fast break down the court is getting the rebound. For the Kings there’s some good and some bad to that. Willie Cauley-Stein has to pull down more boards than two when given the minutes hes given. He’s preached about wanting to play at a 29-10 for the rest of his career and judging by my analysis you can tell I’m not that good with numbers, but two rebounds is not ten rebounds. Speaking of boards, Skal Labissiere had himself a nice game against Charlotte with 13 rebounds, and while some of them came after the game was all but completed, if he can continue to play with that level of hunger for the ball coming off the rim, he’ll be a productive player in the league. A lot of rebounding is positioning and who wants it more, and I haven’t seen a King who wants rebounds as bad as Skal does in quite awhile.

That’s really it for tonight. I could say hit your shots more consistently, I could talk a bit about getting Buddy Hield a bit more run in the first half, but this is all stuff that comes out in the wash after having more than two games under your belt as a new team with a bunch of young guys and new-ish veterans trying to lead them. Rebounding, running up that pace a bit, moving the ball; Those are the things that are going to get wins against a Timberwolves squad trying to figure out who they are going to be moving forward and if the Kings lose, well hey baby, that just means the pick gets just a little bit higher, right?

Match-Up of the Game

Willie Cauley-Stein vs Disappointment vs Karl-Anthony Towns: Tonight has to be a bounce back game for Willie. For all the high-high’s that manifested in Denver’s games, there were low-low-low’s in the game against Charlotte. Who better to rebound from a bad night than against a former teammate, a number one pick and a highly touted young center in Karl-Anthony Towns. I’m not expecting 20 points, or even 10 rebounds, but if Willie can show a work ethic and some fire after a bad game, I’ll call it a win. Towns is DeMarcus Cousins 2.0. He can run, shoot, bang down low, pull up for three, rebound and best of all, does it without the refs calling a tech on him every third game. He’s also a guy who Willie can still bother with his combination of speed and length. Where Towns might be able to blow by the Al Jeffersons of the league, he won’t be able to with Willie and where Town sheer girth down on the block might get the young Kings center pushed here and there, Willie’s reach should help offset that.

I’m really looking hard at Cauley-Stein’s attitude and on-court demeanor tonight. If he’s going to be a major piece moving forward, and if the Kings really are looking to center a team on work ethic and accountability, Willie should be working his butt off tonight. One off night is expected, a few in a row is reasonable even. Kings fans would never fault a guy for not producing if they could see he was working like a dog out there on the court. Hustle and energy is infectious, so lets hope Koufos, Lawson and Skal have been coughing in Cauley-Stein’s direction.

For Your Consideration

Storyline from the Pine

Today’s Storyline isn’t necessarily from an up-and-comer or a diamond-in-the-rough, and it doesn’t even feature a player in tonight’s game. Maybe you remember the name Adreian Payne? He’s a third year player out of Michigan State, and helped lead them to a Big 10 championship with his combination of size, strength and shooting ability. Along with Keith Appling and Gary Harris, Payne helped lead their #4 seed Spartans to the Elite Eight before losing to the eventual champions, the UConn Huskies. Payne is probably most famous for his relationship with Princess Lacey, an eight year old cancer patient who came out with him to cut down the nets at the 2014 Big 10 Championship Game and who passed away eight days after their defeat in the NCAA tournament.

Adreian Payne won’t be playing tonight as he is undergoing treatment for thrombocytopenia, a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough blood platelets. The condition can vary from manageable to life threatening and as of now team doctors for the Timberwolves has stated that his prognosis is “good” but that “he will return to the court when it is deemed safe for him to do so.” With NBA athletes being some of the greatest physical specimens in the world, its hard sometimes to imagine a little thing like blood platelets stopping them. Careers like that of superstar Chris Bosh have been cut short due blood clots and while Bosh has a total career earning of over $186 million to fall back on, a young guy like Payne most definitely does not. Here’s hoping for a quick recovery Mr. Payne, get back to the court soon.

Prediction

Tonight’s the game that Buddy Hield breaks out and of course by that I mean, he finds a dime under the throw rug in Vivek’s Ludovico Treatment room, twists the screws loose on the air vent, crawls till he reaches G1C’s main lobby and dashes off past security opening the doors to tonight’s festivities and into the night, never to be seen again. His life-like robot replacement does pretty well tonight too though: scoring 22 points and grabbing 5 boards in a Kings victory.

Kings 105: Wolves: 99

Game Day Distraction

Speaking of tiring some wolves out: