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Kings 141, Wolves 130: Royal Beatdown

The Wolves’ road woes continued as they dropped their third consecutive game away from Target Center.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Minnesota Timberwolves faced off against the Sacramento Kings on the road, they left the Golden 1 Center with more than just a loss.

Yes, it was that defeat back on November 9th that resulted in the Wolves shipping off their General for three new troops, two of which have already made a significant impact as the franchise attempts to recover from a treacherous start to the season.

Despite the new faces, it was more of the same results Wednesday night as the Wolves yet again failed to keep up with the ever-sprinting Kings, resulting in their third straight loss since stringing together six wins in seven games. The “L” also brought the Wolves road record against Western Conference teams to a frightful (and somewhat embarrassing) 0-10.

In honor of WWE Night at the Golden 1 Center, the Kings sprinted out of the tunnel like the 30th participant in the Royal Rumble, casting countless threes and pushing the tempo at a borderline unhealthy speed. The Wolves seemed on their heels from the tip and never established their own identity, instead electing to play at the frantic hyper-speed pace that Dave Joerger and his young Kings have embraced so far this season.

The results of this “strategy” were about as disastrous for the Wolves as one would expect. Led by former and beloved Timberwolf Nemanja Bjelica, the Kings set a new franchise record for made three-pointers, connecting on 19-of-38 from beyond the arc. Coincidentally, it was the second straight game that the Wolves gave up 19 made three-pointers. The abysmal defensive effort looked bad live, and looks even worse in Tweet-form:

Back to Bjelica for a second — very few people know exactly what his relationship was with Thibs during his time in Minnesota, but it’s extremely evident that the dude formerly known as Belly has a chip on his shoulder when he plays against Minnesota nowadays. The constant green light given to him by his new head coach has refueled Belly’s confidence tank, resulting in an overflow of unfiltered swag:

On a historic night for the Kings, it was only fitting that Belly be the guy to hit the record-breaking three-pointer. The 30-year old from Serbia finished the evening with 25 points (one shy of his season high), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 Kenny Smith-esque “its over.”

As for the Wolves, it was a very forgettable evening in Sacramento, with few takeaways to write home about. Andrew Wiggins continued his offensive resurgence since that catastrophic night against Chicago, pacing the Wolves with 25 points on 67% shooting. Jeff Teague dished out another 13 assists, marking the third time in four games that he has eclipsed double-digit assists. As for the bench, Derrick Rose notched double figures for the 23rd time this season, pouring in 20 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting performance. The Homie Dario Saric added 18 points himself, one shy of his Minnesota season high.

Again, despite a combined 271 points, it was a fairly lackluster game from a Wolves standpoint. The team never established anything close to their recent defensive identity, which resulted in them playing catchup for nearly the entire 48 minutes. Trailing 13 at half, the Wolves did show a quick burst of life to start the second half, outscoring the Kings 16-2 to start the third, only to see the Kings counter with four straight threes, including two from the rejuvenated (and apparent team leader) Iman Shumpert. To add insult to injury, Yogi Ferrell (who came into the game with four made three-pointers since Halloween) connected on 4-for-4 from deep, icing the game before the clock struck midnight back in the midwest.

“And now, your nightly Josh Okogie update!”

Despite being the clear 10th wheel in Tom Thibodeau’s 9-man rotation, young Josh Okogie did see the floor for the fourth straight game, adding these two points...

and this assist in just under 6 minutes:

The six minutes for Okogie were actually his third most in over a month, which as I type it out on my screen becomes more and more depressing/head-scratching/be right back I’m going to mix another alcoholic beverage.

Listen, I know the Wolves are (or were*) rolling as of late, and it’s hard to break up a good thing. I get that. But it should be a Class-A Felony to keep someone that talented (and that energetic) on the bench game in and game out.

Since arriving in Minnesota, Robert Covington has been getting all the minutes he can physically handle, and it’s clearly starting to take a toll on his body. He’s just not right, and RoCo at less than 100% just isn’t the same presence on the defensive end. If only the Wolves had another defensive stopper on the bench to plug in and provide an energetic spark...

Looking ahead, the Wolves will now travel to Phoenix in an attempt to salvage what has been another disappointing West Coast road trip. While Wednesday’s game did feel like somewhat of a must win (yes, I understand it’s only early December), the schedule does ease up over the next few weeks, with home games against the Kings, Pistons, and Hawks, and then road games against the Spurs, Bulls, and Heat.

There’s still plenty of time for the Wolves to fully dig themselves out of their early season hole, but it may take some tweaks to the rotation for the team to fully regain their late November mojo.

Full Game Highlights

Game Notes

  • For the second straight game, Dario Saric played nearly double the amount of minutes as Taj Gibson, which is (hopefully) a positive sign going forward. Since being traded to Minnesota, there has been a strong push for The Homie to move into the starting lineup (and rightfully so), but starting isn’t nearly as important as finishing, and it does appear like Saric is beginning to gain Thibs’ trust when it matters most.
  • The Wolves attempted 93 shots on Wednesday night, yet somehow Towns finished with only 15 of them. I’m not a scientist, but that seems less than ideal.
  • Marvin Bagley III, the Kings’ 2nd overall pick in the 2018 draft, poured in 17 points (despite taking only 5 shots), 10 rebounds, and 3 assists. While impressive on paper, I just didn’t really love what I saw from him and don’t quite understand what his true role will be in the league. It’s extremely early, and I’m no scouting guru like Vlade Divac, but Bagley just doesn’t seem to flash that “star potential” like his counterparts Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, etc. I guess time will tell.
  • Finally, like most Wolves fans, I’ve been feeling a serious case of Jeff FaTeague lately, but credit where credit’s due... the dude who apparently “doesn’t dunk” sure does know how to... well... dunk: