#517 Minnesota Timberwolvesvs.#518 Sacramento Kings
Written by Matt Severance
When/Where: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, Golden 1 Center, Sacramento
Spread: Kings -1; total: 208
Neither the Minnesota Timberwolves nor Sacramento Kings have been very good in the NBA for years. But both teams have new coaches this season and new hope — the Wolves might have the most young talent in the NBA. Saturday’s matchup is Sacramento’s second game in its new arena.
Minnesota (0-1) could be a playoff team this year if things break right. The Wolves certainly upgraded in the coaching department this offseason in hiring former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. He’s a defensive specialist and it was in that facet that Minnesota struggled most last season. The defense was better on Wednesday in Memphis but the Wolves lost 102-98 despite leading 20-3 at one point. The Grizzlies closed the game on an 11-5 run. Andrew Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 25 points, but he didn’t score in the fourth quarter until a pair of meaningless free throws with 1.9 seconds left. Vince Carter did a good job defending him.
Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 21 points but just four rebounds. Zach LaVine added 19 points. Gorgui Dieng had 12 points and 14 rebounds and was the only starter without a negative rating; he was at zero. Kris Dunn, the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft, had eight points in his NBA debut. The Wolves committed what Thibodeau called too many “reckless” fouls in a second half when the Grizzlies attempted 21 free throws.
Sacramento (1-1) opened with a 113-94 win in Phoenix on Wednesday and then played the franchise’s first meaningful game in the city’s new Golden 1 Center but lost to San Antonio 102-94. The Kings led by nine midway through the third, but led by Kawhi Leonard the Spurs went on a 16-2 run and held Sacramento without a basket for the final 7:20 of the period to take a 76-71 lead into the fourth. DeMarcus Cousins had a stellar game in the loss with 37 points and 16 rebounds, two assists and a steal. Boogie even made three 3-pointers. The All-Star big man rolled his left ankle and was forced to leave the game for a short stint in the third. He also took a shot to the face. Rudy Gay, who is probably going to be traded before the New Year since he already said he won’t be back next year when he can opt out of his contract, added 17 points but was just 3-for-10 from the field.
No other starter had more than eight points and the bench didn’t help much, either. Ben McLemore had 10 points but he was yanked from the game in the third quarter when Leonard stole the ball from him on consecutive possessions for breakaway opportunities. The Kings remain without starting point guard Darren Collison as he’s serving an eight-game suspension. Thus they are starting Ty Lawson. He has been solid, averaging 8.0 points, 8.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds in the first two.
Minnesota surprisingly swept Sacramento last season 4-0. The Wolves have gone 4-3 in their last seven visits to Sacramento. The 53 wins vs. the Kings overall are Minnesota’s most vs. any opponent. The Wolves have covered the past six meetings, but Sacramento will want to get that first win in the new building so I like the Kings here as long as Cousins doesn’t sit for some reason. The under is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
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Matt has been a sports journalist for nearly two decades. He is a former sports editor/writer at two newspapers and a magazine. Went full-time freelance sports writer in 2008 -- not by choice then but became a life-changing decision in the best possible way. Consider myself expert on all major US sports. If you are looking for Curling or Badminton expertise, etc., I'm not your guy.