GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Kings | Jan. 15, 2014

GameDay LIVE Blog: Kings 111, Wolves 108





Final: Well that's a wrap, and it certainly was interesting. The Wolves lost 111-108 despite cutting it to one with 4.5 left on the clock. Much more analysis on this one coming up as we head into postgame. Love finishes with 27 and 11, Pek and Martin with 14 each. Gay finishes with 33, Thomas with 26, Cousins with 20. SAC 111, MIN 108

Q4 19.5: After Cousins scored inside, Love hit a 3 that brought the Wolves to within 2. But Gay hit from 26 feet and brought this back out to five. SAC 107, MIN 102

Q4 1:01: So here we go. The Wolves just cut this one to a three-point game after a trip to the line by Barea and a dunk in transition by Shved. Timeout Kings, who led by as many as 14 in this half but now are trying to stop the Wolves' momentum. SAC 102, MIN 99

Q4 3:16: Thomas just hit a long 3-pointer that might end up making this deficit too much to overcome. He's got 24 to go along with Gay's 30, while D-Will and Cousins each have 16. SAC 102, MIN 91

Q4 7:24: Not sure what the reason is, but tonight has been a struggle from the start for the Wolves. Just not a lot of energy from Minnesota this evening. Sacramento, winners of three of its last four, is taking advantage. We've got 7:24 left and it's a 13-point game. Minnesota tried sticking with its starters, tried going mostly reserves and tried going with two centers side-by-side without Cousins in the game. No luck, no budging on the scoreboard. With 7 left it looks like Brewer, Love and Pek will be joining Shved and Barea on the court. SAC 93, MIN 80

Q4 10:08: The reserves entered in with Love but the Kings continue to shoot it off the charts. D-Will just drove and scored, he's up to 14, and Sacramento just expanded its lead to 87-75. It looks like Adelman is coming back out with a big lineup that includes Barea, Shved, Budinger, Turiaf and Pek. SAC 87, MIN 75

End Q3: Minnesota needs to kick it in gear here to start the fourth. It's been a pretty lethargic game to this point, and even thought Minnesota has 10 players on the scoreboard only Love (19) and Martin (14) are in double figures. The Wolves played their starters heavy in the third, and it appears they're going to their bench to start the fourth. We'll see if this second unit of Barea, Shved, Budinger, Love and Turiaf can keep pull this into single digits early on. The Wolves haven't given the fans much to get excited about through three tonight, and fan engagement is going to be important for momentum in the fourth. SAC 83, MIN 73

Q3 3:14: The Wolves dug themselves a hole here letting the Kings continue to shoot 57 percent while they hover around 39, and they're trying to cut this lead into the single digits before we head into the fourth. Minnesota trails by 10 thanks in part to 26 from Gay, 13 from Thomas, 12 from D-Will and 10 from Cousins. Love has 17 and 10 for another double-double, while Martin has 10. Ten players have scored but only two are in double figures tonight for the Wolves. They've also cooled off from 3-point range, now shooting 5-of-11 tonight. SAC 77, MIN 67

Q3 8:02: Here's how I'm looking at the first half and start to the third quarter. The Kings aren't a 55-percent shooting team overall. And Rudy Gay is more of a volume scorer than the efficient 8-of-11 he was in the first half. So the Wolves need to continue chipping away knowing that law of averages should bring them back into this game. Right now it's partially working. Minnesota chipped this one to seven after at one point trailing by as many as 11. Pek is starting to heat up a bit, now he's 2-of-3 with six points. SAC 64, MIN 57

Halftime: The Wolves are trailing by 11 at the break here after Gay wrapped up the first half with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting. The Wolves are having trouble with his athleticism and range, as well as D-Will's. The former Wolves forward has 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Meanwhile, Love has 10 and six for Minnesota and Shved has six off the bench. So much for Cousins and Pek putting up those big numbers head-to-head like we all anticipated. They are a combined 2-for-8 with five points and four rebounds. Minnesota is getting beat in the paint, 34-16, and they're losing the fast-break points matchup 12-7. SAC 58, MIN 47

Q2 3:17: Rudy Gay is starting to heat up here. He's 7-of-10 with 18 points and just hit a 25-foot 3-pointer. He always seems to have big games against the Wolves, so we'll see how his second half plays out. Starting off very efficient tonight. SAC 48, MIN 43

Q2 5:46: D-Will keeps rolling....now 5-of-6 with 12 points and had a circus shot that fell while also getting fouled (he missed the FT). He and Rudy Gay, who just connected and is headed to the line after the timeout, lead all scorers with 12. The Wolves have 10 players on the board tonight in this tie game. They're also connecting on 4-of-7 3-point attempts tonight, so that's a positive for Minnesota. For Sacramento, rookie Ben McLemore will not return after suffering a sprained ankle early on. MIN 40, SAC 40

Q2 8:07: Well, D-Will doesn't seem to be trying to do too much out there in his return to Minnesota. He seems to be doing just the right amount of explosiveness, reminiscent of his rookie season here with the Wolves. His latest antics included a high-flying alley-oop on the fast break. He's 3-of-4 with eight points so far, including a pair of free throws. This is the Derrick Williams Wolves fans loved to watch--high flying and able to finish off big, exciting plays. Meanwhile, the Wolves are hanging tough trailing by three. Turiaf has four off the bench, including a put-back jam. Sacramento is holding steady at 53.6 percent shooting, which is a big part of their early offensive success. SAC 34, MIN 31

End Q1: We're through the first quarter and the Wolves trail by one. Brewer forced a steal that helped lead to that last basket to draw the Wolves within 1, and then a shot clock violation by the Kings led to a drive to the hoop by Shved who narrowly missed either finishing a layup or drawing contact for a foul. Minnesota is shooting 8-of-18 from the field tonight compared to Sacramento's 11-of-22. Meanwhile, Love has eight points and five boards to lead the Wolves in both categories. In the battle of the big men, Cousins is 0-for-3 w/ 0 points while Pek is 1-for-1 with three points. SAC 24, MIN 23

Q1 2:45: Derrick Williams has entered the game and got a nice cheer from this Minnesota crowd. He's been the first one off the bench for Sac-town, subbing in for Rudy Gay. Always good to see. Williams put in work here, but just wasn't able to find his spot. The Wolves are narrowing this lead thanks to a Ricky Rubio steal and a Kevin Martin made shot. Both teams are shooting 50 percent. Love leads the way right now with eight points and four rebounds. Looks like he's well on his way to a double-double. That's weird... Going into the game, we thought Rubio would be the passing guard and Thomas would be the scorer. Not so fast. Rubio has a 3-pointer and a layup. Kings 20, Wolves 18

1Q 5:51 The battle that everyone is paying attention to tonight is Pekovic vs. Cousins. Pek has the upper hand with three points. Both players have picked up a foul, though. Kevin Martin is struggling against his former team, going 0-for-2 on two shots he hasn't looked incredibly confident with. Rubio and Love hit back-to-back 3-pointers, but right now Rudy Gay and the rest of this Sacramento team is shooting 50 percent from the field. Kings 13, Wolves 11

Starters

Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic

Kings : Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Rudy Gay, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins

PREGAME 6:25 PM: One part of tonight's game that is off the court based is Derrick Williams' return to Target Center. D-Will was the second overall pick by the Wolves in the 2011 draft, and he was traded earlier this year for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute due in part to inconsistent minutes and production. Williams talks a bit about his time in Minnesota pregame with the media.

"A learning experience--whether it was good or bad," Williams said. "There was a lot of ups and downs, but you learn from it. They're all veteran coaches on that side, and we have all new coaches on this side, so it's just a different fit--a different feel as well."

Wolves players agreed this morning that Williams has the athleticism to have a bright future in the league, and it's all about consistency and a fresh start. Williams came in with Rubio--the two had a rookie season in 2011-12 filled with alley-oop jams--and he said Williams is a good teammate who simply had to deal with an All-Star power forward ahead of him on the depth chart.

"Sometimes you're not in the right spot," Rubio said. "There's nothing you can do, you know? He was working hard. He put in a lot of time, and I mean I think he's going to be good in this league."

Kings coach Mike Malone said D-Will is giving the Kings athleticism at both the 3 and 4 spots. He said D-Will is a terrific talent who is going to give the Kings whatever he has every time he's on the court.

The biggest challenge for Williams tonight will be not getting too emotional over his return.

"It seems like whenever players get back to where they were, they try to do too much too quick and kind of get themselves in trouble," Malone said. "He’ll, the first couple minutes, be very, very excited, but he’ll calm down and settle into the game. It’s not Derrick Williams vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s the Kings vs. the Wolves. I know he understands that. I hope he has a great game and more importantly I hope we come in here and get a road win." PREGAME 6:00 PM: Watch how you ask Kings coach Mike Malone a question about Nikola Pekovic. He'll take note of those words closely.

For instance, if you ask Malone: 'Might Pek be one of the few guys that is able to match up physically with DeMarcus Cousins,' he'll let you know:

"Not 'might.' I would take the 'might' out of it," Malone said. "Pekovic looks like the guy from the Superman movies. He's big, he's strong and to his credit he's not just a physical player--he can score....He can definitely match up with DeMarcus pound for pound. Everyone told me when I got the job in Sacramento that he's probably one of the toughest matchups DeMarcus has in the Western Conference. I'm looking forward to two strong and two skilled centers going at it tonight."

Pek and Cousins are in a rare group in the NBA. They are two of the up-and-coming centers in the league that coaches and fellow centers do not like to face. They're tough, they're skilled, they can score and they can rebound. They're handfuls down low, and they'll go head to head tonight.

In nine career games against one another, They're relatively even across the board: Cousins holds a 12.2 to 11.1 points per game edge and a 6.8 to 5.6 total rebounds advantage. Each is with 0.1 of each other in steals and blocks per game. That does include a pair of games in Pek's rookie year in which he didn't play more than 16:50 per game. In the past two years, each has compiled a double-double against one another.

Bottom line is they match up well against each other and play physical head-to-head.

And they're both playing at high levels coming into tonight.

"I think DeMarcus, the season he's having is definitely worthy of All-Star consideration," Malone said. "And you look at what Pek has done every night--the guy is the second best offensive rebounder in the NBA. He scores at a very efficient rate in the post, and he's a very capable defender. He uses his strength to his advantage. I think that's two guys that are definitely worthy of All-Star consideration."

PREGAME 2:40 PM: Looking back, Kevin Martin is grateful for the time he spent in Sacramento. Drafted by the Kings in 2004, he spent his first 5 1/2 seasons in the league in Sacramento before a mid-season trade sent him to Houston to reunite with Rick Adelman—his first coach with the Kings. So as he gets set to face his former team once again tonight in Minnesota, Martin is quick to point out he owes a lot to the Sacramento franchise, city and coaches who helped him early on in his career.

"They told me that basketball is all they have out there—there's no other pro team in that town, so they told me it would be a special experience," Martin said. "And that city did not let me down."

From Day 1, Martin began learning the nuances of Adelman's offense that he would carry on throughout his career. Where to cut, what angles to take, they all started early on in Sacramento. He learned from veterans like Bobby Jackson—now Minnesota's player development coach—and he became familiar with how much the city embraced the Kings' players. He entered, of course, during the tail end of Sacramento's eight straight playoff berths and at the height of the Vlade/C-Webb/Bibby era. "I went there as a little boy, and I was just gracious to be under their wing for so many years," Martin said. "They taught me a lot."

He learned that opportunities are earned in this league, not given for not reason, and he realized he would need to seize the opportunities. He did just that after spending his rookie season off the playoff roster, playing Ray Allen as the Kings practiced for Seattle's Ray Allen. He said Adelman made him work from the first day he arrived in Sacramento and never handed him anything. That lesson never left him.

And in the past couple years when the Kings' status in Sacramento was up in the air, Martin took notice. He said he was thrilled when word broke Sacramento would be keeping the team long term.

"I think [Sacramento mayor] Kevin Johnson and the whole city and the Kings organization, they fought to the end and they got rewarded," Martin said. "I think that I'm able to keep going back to that city and play in front of the fans that supported me all those years."

PREGAME 2:10 PM: Welcome to Target Center as we get set for tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings. Tipoff is set for 7 PM on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM, and you can follow along with live updates and analysis right here on Timberwolves.com throughout the evening.

Minnesota is catching Sacramento on the tail-end of a back to back (they lost last night in Indiana), but other than that piece of good fortune this isn’t exactly a Kings team that is rolling over. Despite the 13-23 record, Sacramento 3-1 in its last four games and is trying to get its roster figured out and on the same page after a transitional period in the first couple months of the season. The Kings made one deal that sent Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to Minnesota for Derrick Williams, then turned around and made another trade that brought Rudy Gay to town. Suddenly their forward positions looked a lot different than they did leading up to the transactions.

Gay, as expected, nestled into the top portion of the Kings’ scoring chart. He’s averaging 20.0 points per night with Sacramento—second only to DeMarcus Cousins on the team, and is averaging 5.1 boards and 2.9 assists per game. That assist total is currently tied for the highest of his career. Derrick Williams is averaging 9.5 points in 25.0 minutes per game as a member of the Kings.

Of course, the main attraction on this Kings team is Cousins, who essentially leads Sacramento in every statistical category. He’s got a team-high 23.5 points per game to go along with 11.6 boards, 1.9 steals and 1.1 blocks. His player efficiency rating is 27.7—the only other Kings player with a PER over 20 is Isaiah Thomas (21.8).

“Obviously their main man is DeMarcus—the way he’s playing is at an All-Star caliber level,” Mbah a Moute said. “You could see it even when I was there in the preseason, just the way he carried himself and the way he was going about this season. He’s a big part of what they do. They are a different team than when I was there. With all the changes they made, I think they actually got better off. They’re playing better. It’s going to be very tough for us.”

The other playmaker to account for on this team is Isaiah Thomas, the scrappy 5-foot-9 point guard who continues to play his way into the starting lineup every year. He was the final pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, and each year since he’s made a big enough impact to warrant starter status despite being undersized even at the point guard position. He’s a stealthy shooter who this 41.1 percent of his 3-point attempts and is averaging a career-high 19.0 points per game. He’s started 18 of the Kings’ 36 contests this year.

“He’s aggressive all the time,” Rubio said. “He’s a great scorer. He can go both hands, and he’s not afraid of nothing. Even at his size, he’s attacking the rim and doesn’t matter who is in the paint. He’s going to attack them.”

More to come as we roll through GameDay here at Timberwolves.com.


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