Wolves' Win In Sacramento A Big Boost Heading Into Tonight's Game With Clippers
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During Minnesota’s five-game losing streak, the Timberwolves had trouble minimizing their opposition’s second half runs to the point where even late comebacks weren’t enough.
On Tuesday in Sacramento, the Wolves responded to the Kings’ fourth quarter run. The result was a 97-89 victory that put Minnesota in position to end their four-game West Coast road trip with a .500 record if they beat the Los Angeles Clippers tonight.
A win tonight against the 8-6 Clippers would be crucial early in this regular season. The difference between the fourth-place and 12th-place teams in the Western Conference is only 1.5 games, making this point in the season as important as ever for the playoff-hunting Wolves.
It makes Tuesday’s win in Sacramento that much more important heading into tonight.
The Kings did their best to send the Wolves packing with their sixth straight defeat—like Portland and Golden State over the weekend, Sacramento made a push in the third and fourth quarters that trimmed Minnesota’s once 13-point lead down to three twice and down to two at 91-89 with 1:20 to play.
But each time, the Wolves responded with big shots to create separation and gave coach Rick Adelman a sense of relief after a string of difficult defeats.
“Obviously, with what we’ve been doing lately, that’s a terrific win from start to finish,” Adelman said. “We made a run in the fourth quarter. We made plays, and we defended really well.”
Showing a killer instinct in the fourth, Minnesota scored on its last four possessions of the game—limiting Sacramento to one score on its last six offensive possessions in the process.
But it wasn’t all about the finish; the Wolves played well for nearly the entire contest. After Sacramento jumped out to an early lead, Minnesota regained control at the end of the first quarter and never gave it back up. Their shooting was especially sharp, scoring at a 45.8 percent rate—their best in six games.
“Our offense was much better [Tuesday],” Adelman said. “So that’s what we have to do. We just have to try and build on this.”
Although forward Kevin Love had another impressive statistical line (23 points on 47 percent shooting, 24 rebounds), he had a double-double in each of the Wolves’ prior three losses as well. He’s usually very dependable, but one player can’t carry the team on his own production.
“He let the game come to him,” Adelman said. “He wasn’t forcing anything. He passed the ball. He set screens. He did whatever we needed to do. Rebounding the ball, I think that was one of the better all around games he’s played for us.”
The difference in Tuesday’s win was likely the team-wide production. As a team, Minnesota dished out 25 assists tonight, their second-highest total on the season. They also out-rebounded Sacramento 51-36, and all five Minnesota starters scored in double-figures.
When the team needed a boost, someone stepped up. After Tyreke Evans brought Sacramento to within three at 75-72, Alexey Shved nailed a 24-foot 3-pointer to push the lead to six. After Isaiah Thomas scored on the Kings’ next possession, Shved connected from distance again—bringing the lead to seven.
And with a two-point lead late in the fourth, Minnesota put together a string of effective offensive sets along with a strong defensive effort, putting a 6-0 run together to end the contest that included a Nikola Pekovic lay-up, a circus shot by Love and a pair of free throws by Luke Ridnour.
“Like I said before, it wasn’t about me—it was about the team getting a win,” Love said. “We needed to get off the slump we were on. We were happy to get here, so we have to keep putting it together.”
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