Scouting Report: Wolves at Kings
Wolves (22-23) vs. Kings (15-29) – 5 PM Power Balance Pavilion
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO
*Get your questions on the radio airwaves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio and listen to the halftime show hosted by John Focke on WCCO 830 AM.
Although the Timberwolves opened their seven-game road trip with a high-scoring win over the Suns (127-124), they were unable to keep the momentum as they dropped games to the Jazz Thursday and the Lakers Friday. Tonight, the Wolves will try to regain their spark against the Kings as they continue in the push for a playoff slot.
The Timberwolves are 2-0 against Sacramento this season, with both wins coming at Target Center. The Wolves won 99-86 on Jan. 16 and followed it up with an 86-84 victory on Feb. 7. The Kings haven’t been a strong road team this season, but they’ve played competitively at home. Sacramento has won 11 of its 15 games at Power Balance Pavilion.
The Timberwolves had a big game in the paint against the Lakers. Forward Kevin Love recorded his 37th double-double on the season with 27 points and 15 rebounds and center Nikola Pekovic finished with 20 points and 12 boards. Sacramento comes off a 120-95 win at home against the Celtics on March 16. Kings guard Marcus Thorton had 36 points while forward Jason Thompson had 21 points and 15 rebounds. Center DeMarcus Cousins finished with 20 points for the Kings.
Last time out
The Wolves snuck by with an 86-84 win over the Kings in their most recent matchup on Feb. 7 at Target Center. Although the Wolves led by up to 15 points, the Kings rallied back but came up just short as Donte Green missed a 3-point shot at the buzzer. With Kevin Love out on suspension, center Nikola Pekovic came through, providing 23 points and 10 rebounds. Michael Beasley added 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while forward Derrick Williams, who started in Love’s spot, finished with 14 points. Guard Ricky Rubio recorded 14 assists on the night. Thorton led the team with 22 points, and Jimmer Fredette added 13.
Key matchup: Pekovic vs. Cousins
Cousins can be a game-changer in the paint. This season he’s averaging 16.6 points and 11.1 rebounds this season. But in two games against the Wolves this year, Cousins hasn’t been able to break out (10.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG), and part of that is due to Pekovic. Pekovic’s second game of the season coming off a groin injury was against Sacramento on Jan. 16, and in limited minutes he began showing the physicality he’d become known for around the league this season. In the Feb. 7 matchup, Pekovic put Cousins in foul trouble early and kept him on the bench much of the first half.
Thornton playing strong basketball
Thornton exploded for a season-high 36 points against the Celtics on Friday, hitting 5-of-10 3-pointers and shooting 13-of-24 from the field. He’s averaging 18.5 points per game this season and is a legitimate scoring threat every time he takes the floor. He’s scored 20 or more points 19 times this season. Tonight’s matchup with Minnesota’s shooting guards could also be a pivotal part of tonight’s outcome, as the Wolves will need to get production out of Martell Webster and Wayne Ellington.
Even with stand-out rookie guard Ricky Rubio sidelined due to a torn ACL incurred on March 9, the Wolves are hopeful for a playoff run. Sitting in 11th place in the West, a win over 14th-place Sacramento would put them back at .500 on the season and provide a push for their remaining road games. The Wolves currently sit two games behind Houston for the eighth and final playoff spot, but also have Utah and Phoenix sitting between themselves and the Rockets in the Western Conference playoff picture.
Playing to their competition
The Kings have found themselves playing some of their best basketball this year against tough teams like the Celtics. Although they sit at 14th place in the West, Sacramento defeated the Celtics on March 16, as well as the Thunder Feb. 9, the Lakers Jan. 26, and the Spurs Jan 20. With the Kings thriving on a fast-paced and competitive game, the Wolves will have to take control early and play relentless defense.
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