The Minnesota Timberwolves pulled into my old hometown in Northern California on a brisk Saturday evening, looking to seek revenge after a convincing loss at the hands of the Sacramento Kings just a month ago. A packed Golden 1 Center crowd filled with purple jerseys mixed with holiday sweaters (Shoutout Boss10 representing front row with his Nikola Peković jersey) made it feel like it could be a long night again. especially considering NBA MVP candidate, Karl-Anthony Towns, sat out due to knee soreness. In their previous matchup, Sacramento went bonkers from perimeter, draining eight of 14 shots in just the first quarter alone.
The Start — Opposite Day for Sacramento
On their own court, the Kings went zero for seven from beyond the arc. That number crawled up to three of 17 (17.6%) by halftime.
Meanwhile, the Wolves were not playing around. They immediately punished the much smaller Kings team interior, uppercutting them in the paint over and over. Spot starter Kyle Anderson (10/5/5) and Rudy Gobert (21/17/1), in particular, took control early and helped build up an eventual 44 to 22 advantage in points in the paint by halftime. The crowd audibly groaned in unison each time they gave up an offensive rebound or wide open layup. Just 10 minutes of game action passed by before the Wolves built up an early 13-point first quarter lead.
The Meat — Duel of the Young Superstars
Sacramento’s rapidly ascending star, De’Aaron Fox (27/4/6), would not take things lying down. In fact, he would single-handedly score 10 straight points, including the first two Kings three pointers, just minutes into the second period while also putting both Anderson and Troy Brown Jr. into foul trouble with three a player. It took less than four minutes for the home team to tie the game up at 30-30 before Finch decided to reinsert most of his starters. This led to 25-9 avalanche thanks to Minnesota’s own superstar, Anthony Edwards (34/5/10).
Rudy Gobert block, Anthony Edwards transition dunk pic.twitter.com/U0nkExCmoX— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) December 24, 2023
A 16-point Wolves lead in the second quarter, thanks to six forced turnovers, would only continue to grow to as much as 20 in the third quarter as the Kings continued to struggle from deep. With the visitors holding a 20-point lead and sitting in the bonus with over eight minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Kings could have very well laid down and began their quick holiday break early. But that’s not what a crowd, who’s suffered nearly as much as the Minnesota fan base has, would allow their team to do. A thunderous Domas Sabonis (17/10/10) dunk would help set off the sellout crowd and begin a 11-3 run of their own. A few Chris Finch timeouts had little to no effect to shake his team awake, as Minnesota’s lead dwindled down to just 11 heading into the final period.
The Finish — Vets Buy Time for Ant
If the Kings run wasn’t enough to rile up the arena, than surely the Crumbl Cookies giveaway right before the start of the fourth quarter was. How would the Wolves respond? Finch would go right back to the well that got them their very first lead.
Attack the paint.
A pair of Gobert makes coupled with a Anderson shotput would set the table for a Mike Conley (12/7/9) trey that pushed the lead right back up to 18. It felt as though Sacramento blew their wad on that emotional third quarter run as Minnesota’s second-half defensive adjustments slowly, but surely, squeezed the life out of their victim. A pair of masterful Jaden McDaniels (20/5/1) defensive sequences on Fox was rewarded with a made triple, helping open up a game-high 22-point lead.
Jaden McDaniels defense on De’Aaron Fox pic.twitter.com/yrcr1vCOBj— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) December 24, 2023
Again, much respect to our brothers in anguish for not giving up. They made one final move to cut the lead down to as little as five with two minutes and change remaining. Unfortunately, it was too little too late. The vets bought just enough time until Edwards sent everyone home with a pair of decisive finishes.
You know, it’s just a crazy feeling when your team can lean on savvy veterans who do their jobs professionally. Play defense. Deliver shots. Make sound decisions. All until your young stars take you home.
Unlike, you know, complaining about how they don’t play defense.
Happy holidays to the fan base of the NBA’s number one team!
Canis Hoopus Comment of the Night
Minnesota wrap up their two-game road trip after two days off, visiting the Oklahoma CIty Thunder on Tuesday 12/26 at 7:00pm CT. The Wolves won their previous matchup against their Northwest Division rivals, 106-103 due to some late game heroics by Downtown Troy Brown.