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Wolves 116, Kings 106: Minnesota Musical Chairs

KAT, D’Lo, Ricky, Malik, they’re all just spokes on a wheel.

Sacramento Kings v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

DISCLAIMER: This recap is brought to you in part by with our friends, The Kings Herald (For those not in the know, they were squeezed out of their previous SBNation home). Will Griffith provides excellent content for the Sacramento Kings, hosts a podcast with former Kings head coach/GM/Broadcaster Jerry Reynolds, and is my best friend who constantly motivates me in life. I assure you, he will be one of the best follows for you on social media! @WillofThaPeople

Will is going to toss me an assist by helping with the recaps of these trio of April Kings-Timberwolves games. He’ll provide insight from Sacramento’s perspective with game 1 being our collective pessimistic angles at our franchises, game 2 as optimistic tilts, and game 3 as our most realistic expectations moving forward. Enjoy!

Timberwolves Pessimistic Outlook @ TheKingsHerald

Kings Pessimistic Outlook by Will Griffith:

Every motivational YouTube video made to pump-up 21 year old kids going to the gym 3 days a week for the first time in their lives has that one adage dropped in at some point, either in an illegally clipped voiceover or at the end on a badly photoshopped poster:

“Good is the enemy of great”.

For a team that’s missed the playoffs the previous 14 seasons, it’s much, much closer to “mediocre is the enemy of decent”. The Kangz are stuck in the worst place in the league - not talented enough to make noise in the Western Conference, but not so injury prone or devoid of talent to truly find themselves in a position for an elite ‘21 Draft prospect. I don’t mean to say that they’re absolute garbage. De’Aaron Fox is showing longer and longer flashes of 1A scoring abilities. Tyrese Haliburton is ready much sooner than expected and much better than many had predicted when he slipped to 12th in last year’s draft. These two by themselves are the core elements to any future success that the Kings have. They also won’t be enough if the Kings want sustained success in the Western Conference.

Many had hoped, and some had even expected, the Kings to finally go in on a youth movement at the deadline and trade either or both of Buddy Hield or Harrison Barnes. But first year GM Monte McNair didn’t find anything worth the trouble or the mini-tank and so now the Kings are here: begging the basketball gods and their new bench pieces to get them to a 10th seed while their fans fight a civil war over the merits of a tank with a player of Fox’s caliber (and contract) pressuring a playoff run. Neither side is right or wrong, but goddamn it are they going to try to argue it till the other side is destroyed. All the while, Richaun Holmes has stopped being the best kept secret in the NBA and is in danger of walking away from the Kings at the end of the season - the Kings limited in what they can pay at this point and Holmes an unrestricted free agent. It’s the same ol’ season, different Kangz and goddamn it are we all tired of it. Some still hope for a playoff run down the stretch, some had hoped before the trade deadline that it wasn’t too late to fall into a Top-5 selection. We’re all just hoping for a direction that includes a prolonged playoff streak - something that isn’t quite attainable with the current group. I’d bet a great deal of money that the Kings will break Minnesota’s playoff streak and have very little to show for it.

Game recap by Will Griffith:

This game is a stereotypical Kangz performance. On paper, they should have cruised in this game. They’re far healthier, far more practiced with one another and just plainly said, more talented. Yet they allowed this Timberwolves squad to hang around and even take the lead a quarter of the way through the second quarter. The Timberwolves just dogged these Kings at times and it’s completely unsurprising that Sacramento let this happen. Averaging 114.6 points per game, they didn’t pass the 40 point mark until 4:30 left in the half. For the worst defensive rating in NBA history squaring off against the fourth worst in the NBA this season, the question of “good defense or bad offense” was a pretty damn easy answer. Usually the Kings go as Fox goes - he was nearly 40% of their offense in the first half with 20 points and the Kings only mustering a 55-55 tie.

The only thing that needs to be said for the third is that for all the ugly clanking and heavy breathing in the third, the teams again wound up tied up at 82.

I’m curious as to what impartial fans think of the Kings squad they watched tonight. Would you believe it when I say that the Kings won 7 of 8 games two different times this season? They followed that first run up with 9 losses in a row and had lost three straight before tonight’s loss at your team’s hands. A better writer than I could probably frame this story as two up and coming teams battling it out in the cellar before they end up as future contenders but I think we all know that isn’t happening for either of us and if I had to guess, Minnesota is actually closer to that goal than the Kings at this point. They’re a couple games out of making the play-in?! How could the Wolves be in - Listen. The best way I can put this is the Kings are waiting for their Jimmy Butler to show up and prove they’re finally ready for playoff contention. It’s bound to go as well and impact the future of the Sacramento Kings franchise in similar or worse ways than it did Minnesota. In the words of our mutual friend:

Nemanja Bjelica: f*** it, they’ll deserve it.

Game Highlights

Game Notes

  • The main chatter of tonight’s game will be the constant musical chairs that Timberwolves continue to play. First it was KAT x2 (Wrist, COVID). Then it was D’Lo (Knee). Then Ricky (Back). Then Malik x2 (Suspension, hamstring). These four players have hardly shared the court together and at this point, you have to wonder if they ever will for an extended stretch of games moving forward. All that being said, tonight was D’Angelo Russell’s night and I can’t say how great he was in his first game back. He was absolutely clutch tonight, going on a personal 8-0 run to really put the Wolves in the driver’s seat to end the game. I loved how Finch was running the (Wait for it...) 2-point guard lineup. He was running off-ball wrinkles to get D’Lo more as a catch-and-shoot SG which was absolutely beautiful. It appears D’Angelo is locked and d’loaded for the final stretch of games.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns once again took a nice evening stroll and returned with a 23/13/5 line. The Kings were able to get back within 4 with just about 2 minutes remaining until KAT scored 5 in a row to truly end it. That’s what we have and will continue to expect from our leader.
  • We got a look at what perhaps the remaining season’s games will look like with Anthony Edwards as the 3rd scoring option. He had his moments tonight when hitting a few 3s early and a big basket in the 4th, but he sifted his way to 19 points on 15 shots (.333 FG%) complemented by 8 boards, 5 dimes, and steals. Not too shabby at all, Ant.
  • Dave Benz said “Ant’s can swim!!!” tonight. I’m going to do the Timberwolves community a favor and compile all of Benzsies’ Ant facts at the end of the season.
  • Jordan McLaughlin looked the best he has in a while tonight, besting Hassan Whiteside on a number of crafty finishes in the paint that kept the Wolves afloat during a 2nd half stretch. And just like that, out of nowhere, we have 3 healthy and capable point guards healthy!
  • Juancho Hernangomez, for all his faults, had a net positive effect on tonight’s game with a number of heady plays. Finch’s steadfast trust in Juancho continues to be one of the more surprising stories lately. He finished with 17 points, 9 (!) rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal.
  • Big Mac struggled again tonight, looking a bit outmatched for one of the few times this season. Harrison Barnes forced him into 5 fouls and just 20 minutes of action. Better days are ahead for Jaden McDaniels.
  • There was a moment today where Coach Finch inserted Jarrett Culver to try and help slow down a Kings run, but he would immediately get turned into barbeque chicken on a spin move by Barnes, giving up an and-1. He would hilariously sadly get benched just seconds later.
  • Big shoutout to Naz Reid who was a team-high +21, posting 10 points, 7 boards, and 2 stocks. Nazreon made 2 of 3 three pointers tonight, which is an important development. Finch has tried out the KAT-Naz combo and has largely been complimentary of it.
  • Buddy Hield launched 16 three pointers tonight and made 6 of them. He missed the only non-3PA he took tonight.
  • Harrison Barnes “only” had 21 points in 37 minutes, but shot .643 from the field tonight. It was criminal of Luke Walton to limit his attempts as much as he did.
  • De’Aaron Fox has quickly turned into the Karl-Anthony Towns of the Sacramento Kings, although the former plays more defense (I think). KAT is usually more dominant on offense, but today Fox looked absolutely unstoppable. He had a game-high 31 points on just 16 shots. That’s ridiculous. I am not looking forward to the “Get Fox out of Sac” headlines coming soon.