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Wolves survive Kings 104-102

Gorgui Dieng's big game is just enough to get the Wolves past Sacramento

The Timberwolves Gorgui Dieng started at center for the Wolves, as Minnesota played the Sacramento Kings at Target Center in Minneapolis on Sunday, March 16, 2014. At left is Sacramento's Travis Outlaw. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
The Timberwolves Gorgui Dieng started at center for the Wolves, as Minnesota played the Sacramento Kings at Target Center in Minneapolis on Sunday, March 16, 2014. At left is Sacramento's Travis Outlaw. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

So unlike the Detroit weirdness, 'survive' is very definitely the right word to describe this win.

Considering Sacramento was without its best player....and is generally a mess of a team as it is....this game was far closer than it should have been. The Wolves built up a decent lead, lost it, built it again, then nearly lost it again. The Kings eschewed any sort of discernible playcalling for random chaos, usually involving Isaiah Thomas running in circles or Jason Thompson getting away with basketball murder, and it nearly worked when Thomas went full Sam Cassell at the end, nailing desperation threes to keep Sacramento's faint hopes alive.

I'm not sure what the refs were doing, but it wasn't refereeing. It felt like they had a Community-style shared psychosis where they thought Jason Thompson was Dwight Howard or something....JT got away with multiple over-the-backs, a few hacks, and two blatant moving screens that both resulted in Wolves turnovers.

Derrick Williams also came out in full force tonight. He clearly still has a chip on his shoulder regarding the Wolves and did his best to take it out tonight.

"I think anybody who gets traded wants to play good against the team that traded them, it's just human nature. I just wanted to be aggressive, I knew Cousins was going to be out and I was the next man up and coach really wants me to be aggressive and that's what I was able to do tonight."

He posted an impressive 26-11 line, but was aggressive to the point of stupidity, costing the Kings on multiple plays when he jacked up a contested three or tried to take it into a triple team. The remnants of the Kings' playbook stuck Williams in the corner right in front of the Wolves' bench in the second half, and I was sure Williams was going to say something to Adelman in the fourth quarter.

(Granted, the guy sitting behind me yelling 'you still suck' might have had something to do with it. Dude was an informed heckler...started yelling FG%s and at one point screamed 'stop telling yourself you're a 3!')

Kevin Martin led the Wolves in scoring, and Love put in another typical 26-10-5 performance, but the star of the game (at least for the Target Center crowd) was clearly Gorgui Dieng, who got his first start in place of Pekovic. Immediately the dynamic between Dieng and Love felt like watching the Indiana game when Love and Turiaf manned the post together.

A far cry for the timid kid we saw at the start of the year, Dieng tonight was out to kill people. He ran the pick and roll with Rubio and threw down everything he caught. He jammed up Sacto's side screen offense. He blocked a LOT of shots...credited for five. I counted six. Whatevs...and altered a lot more (and these where power blocks. The kind that got cheers from the crowd) He dove for lose possessions, picked a couple pockets out on the tree point line, smacked Quincy Acy upside the head going for a was pretty awesome.

"Yeah, I was pretty excited going into this game. First time making the line. First time I got minutes, playing high minutes. I was pretty excited. All my teammates showed it tonight and just had a good game"

"Just show that I'm meant to be coming into this league and I was ready. And I was prepared if I get minutes or not I was just going to keep working. I think you should work more when you don't play a lot.  I didn't grab minutes I knew I wouldn't grab minutes because I knew my time would come one day"

Adelman wisely sat him down the stretch to avoid hack-a-Dieng, but he got a well-deserved standing ovation when he checked out. And in true Adelman fashion, the coach took the opportunity to critique Deing's game while being solidly complimentary of him.

"He has habits when the guards are coming at him or people are coming at him of getting his hands down and that's where he gets his fouls. He just needs to use his length and keep backing it up, don't just go after the guys. Back it up and you don't have to block, you just have to alter the shots. The more he got into the game, the better it was. The other thing was that he worked really hard and he played 37 minutes and handled it. That gives him a lot of credit for the extra work he has been doing."

"He is going to have to play if Pek is out for any length of time. When I heard Cousins was out and they were starting Gray, (I thought) why not start him and get him in the game? With their sub, they got smaller. They did have some guys he could guard and I just think it did help him get his feet."

An interesting note that may sort of give you an idea of the mindset of the team; on a Kings fastbreak, Rubio was trying to get in front of Ray McCollum, with Dieng chasing from behind. But for whatever reason, Ricky simply leapt up in front of Ray in the lane way early. McCollum drew the foul and hit the shot anyway while Dieng sailed harmlessly by.

I'm not sure if Rubio thought he had an angle for a steal or if the team in general just isn't used to having a shotblocker out there, but it was a dumb moment that stood out to me. Most teams teach you to stay on the ground and stand up the ball in that situation so the trailing shotblocker can pin it to the glass from behind, but Rubio choose to try and end the play early, giving Gorgui no chance at a block he was clearly lining up for. I found myself thinking that Rubio must have made that play because he's not used to having a shotblocker to force the ball into.

Anyways, the Wolves' schedule turns killer from here on out. Dallas, Phoenix, the Clippers, Miami, San Antonio, Golden State, two games against Houston and two games against Memphis, all in the next 4 weeks.

Random notes:

  • Something is going on with Chase that goes beyond just a lengthy injury/rehab. He looks shook out there. His shots are falling way short (he airballed a three tonight) Teams are going after him hard...tonight, Sacramento immediately posted Travis Outlaw up on him three straight possessions as soon as he checked in. Adelman ran a lineup where Chase was clearly meant to be the #1 option, but he badly missed his first two shots and got knocked around on defense, and Adelman finally called it quits. Fourth quarter, when Chase would normally check back in, Rick sent in Robbie Hummel instead. There's a confidence issue here, but I don't know if it's a lack of confidence in the knee or in the player.
  • Not sure what the Kings think Ben McLemore is, but yeah....4 points, 4 rebounds, got lit up by KMart, fouled out in 19 minutes.
  • As strange as it may sound, there are times and lineups that I really think Bazz needs to be a part of. Adelman continues with his strange rotations that sometimes leave us with no scorers on the floor, then gets frustrated when they don't score? Like, what are you expecting?
  • In addition to his first start, tonight was also Dieng's first double-double. Once again, cheer for this guy. He's the best shot we have at taking the next step.
  • Kevin Martin hit his 1,000th career 3 pointer tonight.
  • Anthony Davis: 40 points (14-22 shooting) 21 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks. It's only a matter of time, kids...