The Sacramento Kings were within striking distance, but were unable to execute down the stretch against the Minnesota Timberwolves, losing 97-89 at Sleep Train Arena. With the loss Tuesday, the Kings fall to 4-10 overall and 4-5 at home. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves end a five-game losing streak with the victory.
Notes and Analysis
- There is no getting around Kevin Love‘s big night. The All-Star forward finished with 23 points and 24 rebounds in 44 minutes of action. 21 of his 24 rebounds came on the defensive end, as he beat any and every King to the ball on countless occasions. By comparison, DeMarcus Cousins finished with just five rebounds in 28 minutes and four of them came on the offensive end.
- Tyreke Evans continues to come out of his shell. The former Rookie of the Year finished with 20 points and team highs in both rebounds with seven and assists with six. Smart needs to find a way to get Evans a few more minutes, especially in the first half. After starting the game and coming out at the nine-minute mark of the first quarter, Evans sat through all but six minutes of the second, while his team struggled mightily on the floor. After a slow start, Evans is looking like the versatile player we saw three seasons ago when he took the NBA by storm.
- The Kings might be back to a point-guard-by-committee after Isaiah Thomas came in late in the third and made a huge difference in the game. While the final score says this was a eight-point loss, it was much closer than that and much of it had to do with Thomas’ aggressive play. He finished with 12 points and three assists in 21 minutes of action, but 10 of those points came down the stretch with first-unit teammates.
- Cousins tied Evans for the team-high in points with 20, but he took 22 shots to get them. His shot volume was high and nearly all his baskets came from 18-20 feet away from the hoop, which is probably why he had only five rebounds. The Kings needed Cousins to go inside and battle on the boards and tonight he avoided that region of the floor.
- Andrei Kirilenko gave Kings fans a glimpse of what could have been. The veteran wing fills a stat-sheet like few others can and according to sources, the Kings tried and barely missed on signing the Russian born player after last season’s lockout. AK-47 finished with 14 points, six rebounds, five assists and three block shots in the win. By comparison, the Kings got five points and two assists out of starter John Salmons.
- Marcus Thornton started the game well, scoring 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting in the first half. But he finished with just 12 points on 5-for-13 shooting. It’s possible that he had some lingering effects from the right quad he strained in Monday practice.
- Stat of the Night: The Kings failed to shoot a single free throw in the first half. Their jump shots were going down in the early first quarter, but once they went cold, things got ugly in a hurry. This was not the aggressive team we have seen in the last week.
Three answers to three questions pondered
1. Will the Kings’ hot shooting continue?
The Kings posted a field-goal percentage below 50 percent for the first time since their loss to Brooklyn. Their offense, at times, seemed stagnant this evening with players seeming to take turns. They managed to come within three-points late in the final frame, but committed two turnovers, missed two shots and scored just two points in the game’s closing two minutes.
2. Can the Kings contain Kevin Love?
Love struggled to find his stroke in the first half. He made just one shot from the field, a 3-point attempt, but managed to stay engaged by playing aggressively. He made 5-of-6 free throws and also grabbed 11 rebounds before intermission. The Olympic Gold Medalist got his overall game going in the third quarter, where he doubled his first half output by scoring nine of his 23 total points and pulling down 10 of his 24 rebounds. So instead of containing him, the Kings allowed Love to play his best game of the season since returning from injury.
3. Will the Timberwolves’ bench be a factor in this game?
The Wolves bench was not as much of a factor tonight as they were last time. The Kings’ bench outscored the Wolves’ reserves 30 to 16 Tuesday evening. But it was the timing of the Wolves’ bench production that proved to be a game changer. Alexey Shved scored his six of his eight points during a crucial time in the game. Early in the fourth period with the Kings rallying, Shved made two 3-pointers that kept Sacramento at bay.
- Jonathan Santiago
Quotes of the Game
Tyreke Evans on confusion with the offense in the final few minutes:
I don’t know. We were just in an area of offense and guys were just out of position. And then we just kind of got out of the offense, but we’ve just got to do a better job.
Isaiah Thomas on confusion with offense in the final few minutes:
Probably the last two minutes. Coach did some plays that guys may have forgotten or I don’t know what it may have been. But we’ve just got to execute in crunch time or we’re not going to win.
Thomas on what happens mentally with the Kings in crunch time:
I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you. I mean, we make plays throughout the whole game and then it’s either a turnover, a couple turnovers or a couple stops we didn’t get. We’ve just got to learn from it and we’ve got to fix it or, like I said, we’re not going to win these close games.
Kevin Love on his performance:
The glove was pretty restricting for me. I had so many shots when the ball went in and out. But like I said before, it wasn’t about me – it was about the team getting a win. We needed to get off the slump we were on. We were happy to get here, so we keep putting it together. I thought we were very locked in on the defensive end tonight. They still hit a ton of shots, but were still able to pull through.
Rick Adelman on his team’s defense:
Our guys were very in-tuned with what we had to do. We looked at a lot of film yesterday and what we’ve been doing. When you’re losing games and guys are coming in and out of lineups and you’re just trying to get things going on the fly, you’re going to have some attrition. I think they really paid attention yesterday. Our offense was much better too. So that’s what we have to do; we just have to try and build on this.