Wednesday night the Sacramento Kings took on the Minnesota Timberwolves for the first time since they traded disgruntled star Jimmy Butler. The Wolves started Karl-Anthony Towns, Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Taj Gibson, and newly acquired defensive standout Robert Covington.
The Kings marched out their standard starting lineup of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Iman Shumpert, Nemanja Bjelica, and Willie Cauley-Stein in their in their alternate ‘chainmail’ jerseys. Sacramento also featured their matching black and white global-themed floor.
The Kings came out of the gates strong and carved out an 11-4 lead, on the strength of 5 quick points from Fox. The Wolves hit right back, however, going on an 8 point run to take the advantage. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Marvin Bagley quickly subbed in and woke up the Kings offense. The Kings scored 8 unanswered points of their own, as the teams continued to trade runs early in the game.
Yogi Ferrell made an early appearance in this one, coming in with 3 minutes left in the first. He clearly had the green light, as he would go on to score 8 points in 8 minutes before returning to the bench midway into the second quarter. The conspiracy theorist in me couldn’t help but wonder if this wasn’t a showcase game for Yogi, as his trade restriction is set to expire this Saturday.
The momentum swings died down after a while and the two teams went punch for punch for the majority of the second quarter. Minnesota led 39-35 early on and Sacramento pushed their lead to 5 at one point, but it stayed close until Buddy Hield broke the game open for Kings off two back-to-back turnovers from the Wolves, including a highlight reel dunk.
Buddy hung on to the rim with a smile and a cheeky point toward the bench as the Kings claimed the first double digit lead of the game, 58-48. Sacramento kept their foot on the gas for the last few minutes of the quarter and took a 63-50 lead into halftime.
Sacramento’s guards (Fox, Hield, Bogdanovic, Ferrell) had an outstanding showing in the first half, combining for 13-of-19 from the field for 34 points, including 4-of-6 from three. They also tallied 11 assists while only committing 3 turnovers.
Notable for Minnesota in the first half was Tim Maxwell’s favorite NBA player and perpetual man-crush, Andrew Wiggins, who went 6-of-8 for 14 points.
Sacramento started the third quarter asleep at the wheel. They allowed 12 straight points and actually gave up the lead in just four minutes, falling behind 66-65 on a Karl-Anthony Towns corner three.
The drastic swings died down again and the game returned to a possession by possession dogfight, until veteran wing Iman Shumpert hit a pair of threes to give the Kings some breathing room. Sacramento would retain a modest lead through the rest of the quarter, and headed into the 4th up 96-92.
Bjelica had a strong showing against his former team, and played a big part in getting the Kings back on track. He would finish the game with a game high 25 points, including 10 in the third quarter alone.
Sacramento absolutely dominated the fourth, pushing the advantage to 109-97. Yogi Ferrell was subbed in for another 8 minute stretch and made his presence felt again. He added 9 points this time and extended the lead to 120-103.
From there, the Kings coasted to their 15th victory of the season, though things got slightly choppy at the end.
The only downside of this game was the Timberwolves taking advantage of Willie Cauley-Stein’s free throw struggles in the closing minutes. WCS is shooting a career low of 48% from the charity stripe this season, and he bricked his first four attempts of the night, including an ugly airball.
The possibility that Marvin Bagley could be the center of the ever more quickly approaching future certainly got some credence tonight. The rookie finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while hitting 9-of-10 from the charity stripe.
The Kings will be seeking their 16th win of the season against the Golden State Warriors on Friday. Tip-off is at 7:00 pm PST at The Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento.