Kings at Wolves
7:00 pm CST
The Kings come in winners of three of four, including a big road win on Wednesday in Utah. The Wolves have also won three of four, and this game is a match-up of two teams trying emerge from the depths of the Western Conference. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT GAME IN FRANCHISE HISTORY, it is a sneakily important game for the Wolves. They need to maintain momentum heading into their road-home back-to-back against the Thunder and Hawks starting on Christmas. They have the opportunity to gain a game on a team ahead of them in the standings, but within view. They need to start establishing something on their home court, as Jim Petersen regularly talks about. They need to win this ball game.
The Kings are of course led by DeMarcus Cousins, who is averaging 29 points a night and is a personal creator of foul trouble for opponents. He’s getting to the line 10 times a game, and in fact fouls and free throws are likely to be significant factors tonight. Both teams draw and commit fouls at high rates, and whichever team can get the upper hand there, and perhaps get a key player to the bench with foul trouble, will have an advantage.
The first meeting between these teams was a catastrophe for the Wolves—it was one of the early third quarter collapses. They won the other three quarters, won three of the four factors for the game (all but offensive rebounding percentage,) but were outscored 30-12 in the third and somehow lost the game 106-103. I’m still not sure how. Cousins fouled out in 32 minutes (but still scored 29 and got to the line 14 times.) Rudy Gay and Andrew Wiggins couldn’t really guard each other, with Gay going for 28 and Wiggins 29 on the night.
A major factor was the Kings interior defense (and the Wolves offense) limiting Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns only had 12 shot attempts in 37 minutes that night, and two free throw attempts (both missed—the Wolves going 22-31 from the line was significant.)
The Kings also use their bench much more than the Wolves, as we saw in their win over Utah on Wednesday. Five reserves played at least 18 minutes, and the bench combined for 49 points. This was extreme, but not entirely unusual. Ty Lawson is coming off the bench but sharing point guard minutes almost equally with Darren Collison. Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, Garrett Temple, Arron Afflalo, and Matt Barnes are all getting regular time at the wing spots. Kosta Koufos has been starting up front next to Cousins, but they are also using Anthony Tolliver and Willie Cauley-Stein. In other words, the Wolves are likely to have to deal with a lot of players with their own limited rotation.
eFG% TOV% Oreb% FT/FGA
Kings 49.6 12.9 22.4 .230
Wolves 49.9 13.6 27.9 .231
Who wins the free throw battle? Can the Wolves take advantage on the offensive glass? Can the Wolves take care of the ball? Will one of these teams, neither of which are good or voluminous three point shooting squads, get hot from beyond the arc? In a single game sample, the four factors don’t tell us much, but are good to spot trends and how teams generally play.
Rudy Gay has missed five games with a hip flexor, but is expected back in the lineup tonight.
Omri Casspi has missed four games with illness, and his availability is unknown.
Our blogging buddies today are over at the excellent Sactown Royalty. Be excellent.
Talk about tonight’s match-up and all Wolves goodness here.