- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (33-32) vs Sacramento Kings (37-25)
- When: 9:10 PM CT
- TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves +4.5 | Total: 238 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
- Jaylen Nowell — Left Knee Tendinopathy
- Wendell Moore Jr — G-League Assignment
- Karl-Anthony Towns — Right Calf Strain
- Keon Ellis — G-League Assignment
- Richaun Holmes — Non-COVID Illness
- Neemias Queta — G-League Assignment
What to Watch For
Another Big Spot for Gobert
Coming off a fantastic 22-point, 14-rebound, three-assist and three-stock performance against the Los Angeles Lakers last night, Rudy Gobert will have another opportunity to leave a major impact on the final result of the game tonight against the Kings.
Sacramento ranks 26th in the league defending the rim (70% opp. FG%) and 17th in opponent at-rim frequency (31%). Now, on the second night of a back-to-back, a poor Kings defense faces a confident Gobert, who has taken at least nine shots in each of his last five games as a result of his buddy Mike Conley arriving to play point guard.
Gobert has played well against the Kings this year. He dropped 19 points and 14 rebounds in the two teams’ last matchup, and 13 points and 14 rebounds in their first contest. On the other of the floor, he did a good job containing Domantas Sabonis while also remaining out of foul trouble, especially in the second game, in which he held Sabonis to six point on six shots across 45 possessions. As a result, he turned in marks of +6 and +5 in those two games.
Minnesota will need Gobert to replicate his 14-rebound performances again tonight if they want to keep a Sacramento team that ranks eighth in rebound percentage (51.1%) over their last 10 games off the glass. Whether it’s completing defensive stops with contested rebounds or creating opportunities for his teammates to score second chance points, Gobert has to be a factor on the boards if the Wolves want to win.
One NAWghty Pack
Yesterday, I published an article highlighting Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s outstanding two-way impact since the Timberwolves acquired him at the trade deadline, and explained why he should be a lock to stay in the rotation moving forward.
Then, last night, Timberwolves Head Coach Chris Finch gave him all the backup 2-guard minutes after NAW split them with Austin Rivers on Tuesday, and enjoyed the rewards. Alexander-Walker dropped eight points, three dimes and a pair of rebounds across in his 20 minutes, in which the Wolves were a +10, the second-best mark behind Jordan McLaughlin’s +11.
Check out this little sequence last night from Nickeil Alexander-Walker:— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) March 4, 2023
Nearly gets the poke away, dives for the loose ball, sprints back to recover, helps force the steal, then runs down and hits a big time three.
NAW is still just 24 years old. Definitely a keeper. pic.twitter.com/Qw9Nkfg0go
The Timberwolves have a +10.9 net rating (fueled by an insane 94.2 defensive rating) in the 88 minutes Alexander-Walker has been on the floor in a Wolves jersey this year, and have a -9.1 net rating in the 248 minutes he has been on the bench over his first seven games in Minnesota. For reference, the Milwaukee Bucks hold the league’s best defensive rating (109.1), while the Boston Celtics are atop the net rating rankings (+5.6).
Defensively, NAW is a menace. The Wolves force their opponent to turn it over on 19.9% of the possessions the 6-foot-5 on-ball pest is in the game (the best mark of any Timberwolf by 3.1%) and do so only 14.6% of the time while he’s on the bench (tied with Anderson for lowest off-mark on the team).
Finch and Co. will rely upon Alexander-Walker heavily again tonight against an explosive, perimeter-centric Kings attack that holds the league’s top offensive rating (118.2). Between All-Star point guard De’Aaron Fox, sharpshooters Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk, and capable ball-handlers Davion Mitchell and Terence Davis, Alexander-Walker’s ability to make opposing guards and wings uncomfortable will be a key swing skill in this game.
If the Wolves can effectively run the Kings off the 3-point line and force them into tough looks from inside the arc like they did in the first two matchups, they will have a great chance to walk away victorious.
An Aggressive Scoring Back-Court
The Wolves need a big scoring night from their back-court.
Anthony Edwards is averaging just 16.3 points per game over his last three outings, and has more turnovers (14) than assists (12) in that span, but is in a get-right spot tonight against a Kings defense that allows the most points per game to opposing shooting guards. Edwards shredded Sacramento to the tune of 34 and 33 points, respectively, in the teams’ first two contests on a whopping 28/48 (58.3%) shooting and made just two free throws total. Whether he’s tired, hurt, or a combination of the two, he’ll need to fight through it to deliver in a big way on the second night of a back-to-back against a Kings team that barely beat a Kawhi Leonard-less Los Angeles Clippers at home last night.
While Edwards wasn’t as aggressive as he could’ve been last night, he did an excellent job getting off the ball when two defenders came to him, especially in the fourth quarter. His back-court mate, Conley, benefitted greatly from that.
Conley last night enjoyed his most aggressive and most efficient night as a member of the Wolves, connecting on four of his five floaters and two of his six 3-pointers. Although he missed a few wide open looks, Conley is shooting 55.6% on catch-and-shoot 3s as a Timberwolf, and shot 42.0% with the Jazz, so it is more than reasonable to expect him to knock those down with regularity moving forward.
Given the Kings’ poor perimeter defensive options, it would be wise for the Wolves to get Edwards and Conley going downhill in an effort to put pressure on the rim, get them easy looks, and play an inside-out offense featuring plenty of ball movement against tired legs. If the Minnesota guards can get it rolling, Sacramento will have trouble in the half-court all night long, and Anthony Edwards just might start yelling “Light the Beam!” at the Kings bench after a Wolves win.