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Game Preview #51: Kings at Wolves

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The rematch of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals is finally upon us.

Kevin Garnett, Game 7 (2004)
https://www.nba.com/timberwolves/news/flashback-10-years-ago-today-wolves-top-kings-game-7-0

Game Info

Who: Sacramento Kings (22-28) at Minnesota Timberwolves (12-38)
When: 6:00pm CST
TV: Bally Sports North
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio


What To Watch For

Heads up — it’s an earlier than normal home game tonight, with both teams expected to tip off shortly after 6:00pm CST (instead of the usual 7:00pm CST). Also, I wrote most of this preview during my lunch break, so please forgive me for not writing much about D’Angelo Russell, who will be making his return to the rotation after an extended absence due to his left knee surgery.

As for the main reason to tune in, well that’s simple: the Rookie of the Year award may very well come down to the two guards squaring off tonight at Target Center. Since LaMelo Ball went down with that extremely unfortunate wrist injury last month, the spotlight has squarely turned to Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton, both of whom have been playing their best basketball since returning from the All-Star Break.

Back to LaMelo for a second — despite being an enormous ANT fan, I can comfortably say that had Ball not suffered what appears to be a season-ending wrist injury, he was hands down the favorite for Rookie of the Year and was probably going to win the award in a landslide. This was backed up by the Rookie of the Year gambling odds, which listed LaMelo as -775 to win the award as of March 16, just days before fracturing his wrist against the San Antonio Spurs.

At that same time, both Edwards (+800) and Haliburton (+700) were huge underdogs to win the award; however, as of April 1 both players have seen their odds greatly reduced, with Edwards (+100) now the likely frontrunner for the award with Haliburton (+160) coming in as a close second. LaMelo’s odds (+205) put him in a distant third, and highlight the notion that no rookie has ever won the award while playing as few games as Ball has thus far (41).

Outside of the Rookie of the Year race, the other main reason for tuning in to tonight’s game is the simple fact that Karl-Anthony Towns is evolving once again into a flat-out monster.

As Key mentions above, Towns is now averaging 25-10-5 since the All-Star break, and doing so at a 48/40/80 shooting clip. Whether it be step back threes, underhand cross-court assists, or bringing the ball up the court, a new version of KAT is getting unlocked right before our eyes. If the front office can continue to put the proper fitting pieces around their franchise player, Towns may finally be able to elevate his perception around the league.

Also, if you missed this from over the weekend, this was a really cool moment during Karl’s postgame media availability:

Injury Reports

Like I said at the top, I wrote most of this preview during my lunch break, thinking that D’Angelo Russell was still 1-2 games away from officially making his return. As is the case with many other things in my life, I was flat-out wrong, as Jon announced later in the afternoon that Russell will indeed be rejoining his teammates tonight after missing 26 games due to his knee procedure.

The Russell Return coincides with the return of Ricky Rubio, who had missed time recently with back spasms. The Wolves will finally have both of their top point guards available, and according to Jon, it’ll be Rubio who gets the nod with the starters:

LAST SECOND UPDATE:

Of course. This team simply cannot catch a break when it comes to injuries.

ANYWHO — on the other end of the floor, the Kings’ injury report is fairly clean. Marvin Bagley III is still OUT as he continues to rehab his fractured left hand (an injury he suffered back on March 15). The only other notable player to mention is Hassan Whiteside, who is listed as QUESTIONABLE with a knee injury.

We’ve got the one and only @Y0Leo covering tonight’s game, so be sure to follow him over on Twitter. Otherwise I hope y’all have a fantastic week, stay safe, and enjoy those warmer temperatures (wherever you may be currently located). Go Wolves!