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Kings 123, Wolves 117: Defense Appeared To Be Optional

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Sacramento’s bench did work and helped hand the Wolves their 45th loss.

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

MINNEAPOLIS — Defense appeared to be optional at Target Center tonight, as the Sacramento Kings walked into town, dropped 123 points, and left with a six point win over the Wolves on Saturday night.

“We didn’t do what we needed to do,” said Karl-Anthony Towns. “It’s as simple as that. We didn’t keep them out of the paint. We also let them hit too many threes. It comes from ball pressure and doing the little things in our defensive scheme.”

The Kings caught fire after a slow start and went on to shoot a season-high 56.4 percent. Their bench had an eye-opening 66 points.

Tom Thibodeau was asked what changed defensively after the Wolves held Sacramento to only 18 points in the first quarter and appeared to be on their way to blowing out the Kings.

“The end of the first quarter after we got up—I think we were up 16, 29-13—it didn’t take much for those guys to get going,” Thibodeau said in a rare down and defeated tone.

“I think the first five minutes of the second quarter it was 21-11 and you know, when you get shooters and you let them knock threes down, they’re hard to turn off once they get going. When you prepare for a team you see, you know they just did it to the Clippers, it was down 18 late in the game and they came back. It’s two games in a row we’ve got off to good starts and then didn’t play with an edge.”

Buddy Hield scored 22 points on 9-15 shooting (4-6 from three) to give him his fifth 20+ point performance of his rookie season (third in a Kings uniform after being traded in a package for DeMarcus Cousins).

Willie Cauley-Stein scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Another beneficiary of the Cousins trade, WCS has all five of his double-doubles since the All-Star break when Boogie was moved to New Orleans. Ty Lawson added 21 points and 11 assists off the bench. You might be thinking: REALLY TY LAWSON HAD 21 AND 11? YES. HE DID. This was his first double-double since a 14-point, 11-assist performance with the Rockets on Nov. 2, 2015 and his first 20p/10a game since the 2014-15 season, when he tallied eight as a member of the Nuggets.

Andrew Wiggins always loves playing the Kings. He consistently crushes them. Tonight, he scored 32 points on 13-20 from the floor but that wasn't enough to overcome the Kings offensive attack. Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds en route to his 56th double-double of the season (3rd in NBA). With seven games left in the season, Towns needs to tally 144 points and 94 rebounds to become the youngest player in NBA history (15th overall and first since Tim Duncan in 2001-02) to collect 2000+ points and 1000+ rebounds in a season.

“We can’t come out and be like that,” Towns said when asked about the defensive woes.

“We’ve been doing real well recently and for us to come out...the game of basketball, some days you’re not going to hit shots. That’s just the way it is. No one is going to be 100% or near perfect or hit as many shots as they would like, but we can’t ever be outworked. And it felt like we were outworked in the second half. We put them in a big deficit. We should have put the game away then, but we didn’t. They fought back. We can’t have games like that.”

Ricky Rubio finished with 11 points, 13 assists, six rebounds, and two steals. This was his 30th game with 10+ assists, matching his career-high total in a season (30 in 2015-16). But his hot shooting in March didn’t carry over to April Fools' Day. His shot was really off tonight (1-10) but, as per the usual, got to the free throw line throughout the game and still had a pretty decent all-around showing.

Praise from Dave

Kings coach Dave Joerger always seems to have nothing but praise for the Wolves when he comes to Target Center. In his pre-game media availability tonight, he all but guaranteed the Wolves would be in the playoffs next season. He also had nice things to say about Ricky Rubio.

“I think the future is very, very bright,” Joerger said.

“This is a team that will be in the playoffs next year. They will be in and then will be looking for this seed or that seed. I’m impressed with the way they play and it’s been fun to watch the process. Flip (Saunders) got the thing going in the right direction. They didn’t miss on draft picks, they got the right picks, created the right culture. Tom (Thibodeau) is playing a great style, the defense and trust and building teamwork first. Nothing but the best is in front of them.”

Joerger on Ricky Rubio:

“I’m happy for him. I’ve read the stuff about his numbers and stuff. That’s a good dude. He’s always pass first, team first and set guys up. Right now, they have a nice little rhythm to them and the way they are playing. I’m happy for him.”

NOTES

  • Ugly defensive effort from both sides. No rim protection, bad transition defense, late slides, general unawareness, laziness, etc. “We weren’t into our man,” Wiggins said afterwards. “We weren’t pressuring the ball like we were in the first quarter, turning them over.”
  • My report on Georgios “George” Papagiannis: He is one humongous 19-year-old with gigantic calves. His calves are colossal. I know that might sound weird to read but that was one of the first things I noticed when he took the court. They almost make our old friend Nikola Pekovic’s calves look small. But enough about that. George looked clueless in his first four minutes and his reads were slow in halfcourt sets when Sacramento fed him in the mid-post. I was watching him closely because I have no idea about him outside of seeing him play terribly once in Summer League this past summer so I wanted to try to understand his game a little bit better. In his second stretch, he had a nice put-back slam over Towns and kind of let the BIG KAT know about it. Then George had a stupid reach in foul on Towns; he was leaning in on him a few times, basically draped over him kind of trying to get in Towns’ personal space/head. That didn’t work. Then boom...3 second violation the next possession on offense for him. Papa’s court awareness is not there yet. You can tell how raw he is by how clueless he looks at times in halfcourt sets; he doesn’t exactly know where to be after setting screens. Roll hard to the rim or pop for the jumper? He’s a massive dude though. Just seriously huge. Towns gave him the business with an #AND1 once and Papagiannis came back later with a huge slam off a lob. He grabbed some impressive rebounds above the rim and sets hard screens. I left the arena being decently intrigued by the Kings rookie center. I think he needs to find a go-to move on offense before I would buy any G-Papa stock, but he will probably have a long career in the league banging bodies with other 7-footers.
  • Kings wore their black jerseys that have a subtle grey pattern on them. I love them. I’m definitely a fan of the re-design by the Kings, and hope the Wolves new logo and uniforms are also awesome.
  • Anthony Tolliver is a charge-taking machine. He took two of them tonight. I’ve always been a Tolly fan since his days in Minnesota. The Wolves really need to find a player or two like him that give 200% all of the time and have no trouble doing the dirty work. Recommended reading: The NBA Player Who’s So Good At Taking Charges We Created a Stat For Him
  • Buddy Hield flashed some delicious moves on offense. Some floaters off one foot, step-backs, and regular spot-up jumpers. He hit one quick transition three by getting to the right slot really fast and gunning. Buddy can get buckets. I think the trade to Sacramento will ultimately be good for his career as the Kings will rely heavily on him in the coming years as their high usage scoring wing. Shahbaz Khan (an old Canis friend who is doing amazing work as the Digital Managing Editor with the Kings) told me Hield is a great guy and easy to work with. I just wanted to give a shout-out to Baz in this space. I’m so happy for that man.
  • Darren Collision looked pretty bad tonight. Britt Robson asked me if he was the worst starting point guard in the NBA, but I didn’t have an answer on the spot and don’t have time to research that question right now (though my inclination was to say there probably is at least one worse starting PG right now). Maybe not though! Respond in the comments and let us know who you think the worst starting PG in the league is.
  • Points allowed per quarter: 18, 37 (Thibs was losing his mind the entire time), 36, 32. In other words: UGH. WHERE’S THE DEFENSE? WHERE IS IT? This is totally unacceptable.
  • Langston Galloway scored 17 points in 15 minutes. Arron Afflalo added 16 points in his 26 minutes off the bench. They combined to hit seven treys.
  • Kris Dunn needs to rely on his floater a lot more often. I’ve tweeted this a few times, but it needs to be his go-to move off the dribble. He hit one tonight at the buzzer to end the third. He seems comfortable with the floater which
  • A man started chanting “MVP, MVP, MVP” for Omri Casspi late in the third quarter when Casspi was taking free throws. I’m sure that meant to Omri that a man thinks he is the most valuable player in the NBA. Watch out Russell Westbrook and James Harden, Casspi is coming...
  • With 7:06 left in the game, Thibs pulls Towns in favor of Adreian Payne. I believe this was to send a message to Towns that defense and hustling up and down the court is not optional. The Wolves responded with major run to close the score to 106-101, and Towns returned a few minutes later, but I think Thibs was trying to make a statement to KAT. While he remains the best young offensive player on planet earth, his lack of defense has hurt the team all season long and they won’t make the jump forward to being a playoff teams until Towns becomes the defensive anchor they drafted him to be or the front office puts the right pieces around him to mask some of his deficiencies on that end.
  • The Kings were 11-19 (57.9%) from three-point range.