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Kings 132, Wolves 119: Sabonis Silences Streak

A second straight terrible defensive effort by Minnesota results in an ugly loss this time.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Game Story

For the second night in a row, against a team that barely knows each other’s names, the Minnesota Timberwolves failed to do what has helped them to a successful season so far: Playing stout defense.

They were able to succeed in the first game of the road-road back-to-back on the heels of outlier perimeter shooting and an exceptional bench effort. Though the Wolves didn’t have either of those going today, the starters helped pick up the slack. Minnesota came out of the gates firing again. A 37-point 1st quarter helped the Wolves build, at one point, their biggest lead of the game (13) as the Sacramento Kings, who activated 3 of their new players from the Pacers, fumbled the ball back and forth. It felt like they were going to roll over early for this one as Anthony Edwards looked particularly explosive, scoring 15 of his own in that opening period. What should’ve been a double-digit Wolves lead was stopped by the referees Chimezie Metu though. The 4th-year pro went 6/7 from the field in the first 12 minutes of the game, all on dunks (1 was later wiped away as it came after the buzzer).

If that wasn’t a signal of the gaping crack forming the Minnesota defense tonight, then I don’t know what was.

The free runs at the rim totally opened up the Kings perimeter game. They went 7 of 13 from perimeter in the 2nd quarter and regained control of the game on a 14-3 run. To make matters worse, the see-saw officiating teetered from all Sacramento in the 1st quarter (9-5), to all Minnesota in the 2nd (2-7). The product of their defensive “effort” was a 42-point quarter punctuated with by 71-62 Kings lead.

D’Angelo Russell and his brilliant shot-making to open the 2nd half was able to help temporarily rebuild a lead. He drained three pointer after three pointer in a 4.5 minute stretch where he alone scored 15 points. Fast forward to the 4th quarter, with both teams going back and forth, there was a critical point where Domas Sabonis committed his 5th foul on an offensive charge. Kings coach Alvin Gentry signaled for the challenge which he would correctly win, keeping Domas in the game to continually have his way with the Wolves inside (22/14/5 night). It felt like the only thing that stopped him all night was an inadvertent elbow from Jaden McDaniels that left him with a solid black eye. With 5 minutes left in the game, I decided to tweet about the Wolves road losing streak and things went to crap from there.

D’Lo’s previous shot making turned into desperation hero ball, missing a number of questionable shots and committing a turnover to help the Kings go on a 10-0 run. The Wolves crumbled under the pressure and never made it interesting again. An unspectacular 18-point Minnesota 4th quarter hurt, but the real culprit was giving up 132 points to a hapless Sacramento team.

So did the Wolves end their 6-game winning streak drought dating back to 2004? No.

Did they end 27-game losing streak on the tail end of a road-road back-to-back? No.

Have the Wolves regained defensive composure as they tumble down the DEFRTG list? No.

Is Ant’s nagging knee injury something we can put behind us? No.

Are the Wolves still above .500 and on track towards a postseason berth? Yes.

As a reminder for those of you who missed it in the game preview, The Kings Herald is on a tear with donations to local charities in protest of their front office’s lack of tanking/competitiveness. They chose a worthy cause today and even though they didn’t lose, they’re still turning it up!

There’s a newly five month old Sacramento-area resident named Cooper Crowe who has been diagnosed with ASXL3, and who I’d like to donate on behalf of, tonight or whichever game our next round of donations goes out. This week is Feeding Tube Awareness Week, something that Cooper requires the use of, and I’d like to think that between now and Cooper’s first Rare Disease Day on the 28th of February, we can ensure he feels celebrated and loved by his hometown. I’ll throw in the Instagram that his parents run in the hopes of building awareness for Cooper’s condition and if you’d like to follow them or just send some encouraging words their way, I’m all for making their lives that much brighter. In the instance that the Kings lose tonight, I’m donating DOUBLE - the loss of Haliburton and a second loss in consecutive nights deserves at least that.

Tonight (or the night of the next loss, I guess) I’m asking that you please write-in that your donation is in honor of Cooper Crowe or The Crowe Family, and if you’d like to mention Operation:M.C.N.A.I.R. or Haliburton they have a separate notes section for that inclusion. If for some reason you can only pick one, I ask you write in Cooper’s name and know that we as a community will be just as proud of you.

Game Highlights

Pack Leaders

Omega - Jarred Vanderbilt
Vando looked like a human pretzel out there as he repeatedly dove to the floor for loose balls. He continues to push through aches and pains to provide the energy that this team so desperately needs. He ended the night with 8 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 stocks, and a team-high +7.

Delta - Anthony Edwards
In the post game presser, Ant opened up by saying that tonight was the first time in a while that he felt like himself. His shot chart was all over the place as evidenced by his 10/25 shooting performance and he also didn’t contribute much else on the floor, but he looked a little bit more explosive/aggressive tonight. It was nice to hear him be so candid about his knee, though it’s still concerning. Ant chucked his way to 26 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block, and 2 turnovers. He’s day-to-day moving forward according to himself, but hopefully this is a step in the right direction.

Beta - D’Angelo Russell
Although I was critical of D’Lo’s performance at the end of the game, it was fairly likely that the game would’ve gotten out of hand if it wasn’t for his insane 3rd quarter stretch. He finished with a team-high 29 points (6/13 3P), 4 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, and 4 turnovers.

Alpha - Karl-Anthony Towns
KAT did an admirable effort trying to stop the reinvigorated Domas Sabonis tonight. His all-around game showed in the final stat line, posting 21 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists and 1 block. He certainly had areas to improve (Rebounding) tonight, but game ball goes to the big man.

What’s Next

Game 3 of the 4 game road trip continues. Now just 3 games over .500, the Wolves will visit the Chicago Bulls on Friday 2/11 @ 7:00pm CT. The 3rd place Bulls just ended a brief 2-game losing streak by defeating the Charlotte Hornets 121-109 tonight. Hopefully Coach Finch gets through to his team with 4 games left before the All-Star break.