Wolves Open Up Season With 92-80 Win Over Kings
Minnesota started hot, outscoring Sacramento 28-18 in the first quarter. The Kings went on to a 31-9 run, however, to bridge the gap in the second and third quarters and take a four-point lead. The Wolves used a12-0 run of their own late in the third to regain control, and they never looked back en route to their first win of the year.
The Timberwolves’ defense—fresh off a fantastic preseason effort where they ranked first in several NBA defensive categories—did what they needed to do.
“Offensively, we have a long ways to go,” coach Rick Adelman said of Minnesota, which finished with a 36 percent shooting rate. “We missed a lot of shots, but we stuck with it in the fourth quarter and held them to 15 points and won the game. We did that in preseason, and it worked again tonight.”
While the starting lineup struggled at times, the Minnesota bench came in and made an impact on both ends. J.J. Barea shot 6-for-11 with 21 points, and Dante Cunningham led the team in rebounding with nine. Center Greg Stiemsma made his presence felt early with four blocked shots.
“That’s my job, come in and block shots, get rebounds,” Stiemsma said after the game. “Be a presence in the paint. This is a game of runs, always has been, always will be. We started out making some stops, and that’s where it has to start for defense.”
Star Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins picked up some early fouls and spent much of the second and third quarters on the bench. His frustration was visible, and he was limited to only 11 points and four rebounds. Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota’s center who was assigned to Cousins, struggled as well; he shot 2-for-9 from the field for just nine points.
“Every single night, go out hard and play good defense,” Pekovic said. “The season is long. We had some problems in transition, but we caught up and played how we were supposed to play.”
The game was frustrating at times, especially when Sacramento came back and assumed the lead. But Minnesota stuck with their philosophy, and grinded out their first victory of a promising season.
"We were getting shots; you just have to finish them… we have to do a better job," Adelman said.
Leader of the Pack: J.J. Barea
With several players struggling to make shots, J.J. Barea came off the bench and led the squad with 21 points. He contributed another five assists and made all eight of his free throws. Many of his field goals were high-percentage shots, as he frequently drove to the lane and made tough lay-ups.
"I thought JJ was terrific,” Adelman said. “He came in and attacked the basket. I think he made some really good plays on the pick and rolls, as he made really good decisions and found guys near the basket. We were able to open back up again.”
Highlight of the Night
Near the four-minute mark in the third quarter, the Timberwolves were fighting to regain control of the game after surrendering the lead. Andrei Kirilenko received an outlet pass and sprinted down the right sideline, lobbing an alley-oop pass to Dante Cunningham. Cunningham finished above the rim—giving Minnesota a 62-61 advantage—and Minnesota held on for the rest of the game to win.
The Numbers Game
Quote of the Night
“He (Roy) has to take those shots. I think that will just come with time. He will make those shots in time. He is a reluctant shooter because he wants to keep probing all the time. Sometimes he has wide open looks he just needs to take them." —coach Adelman on Brandon Roy, who shot 4-14 tonight for 10 points.
Minnesota goes on a small road trip out east, traveling to Toronto on Sunday to play the Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The next day they move back across international lines to face off against the Brooklyn Nets at their brand new Barclays Center. The Timberwolves return to the Target Center on Wednesday to host Orlando.