The Sacramento Kings picked-up their second straight win tonight, knocking off the Minnesota Timberwolves 101-98 at Sleep Train Arena.

Dante Cunningham missed a 25-footer at the buzzer that would have tied the game.  That was the theme of the night for the Timberwolves, who shot just 1-for-19 from behind the arc. Chase Budinger, who hadn’t played since injuring his left knee on Nov. 10, hit the team’s lone long ball this evening.

Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 24 points, as the Kings improved to 25-44 on the season and 19-15 at home.  They travel to Denver for a match-up with the streaking Nuggets.

Notes and Analysis

  • Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 24 points on 8-for-15 shooting, but walked away from another game befuddled by his coach’s fourth quarter rotations.  After scoring 14 points in the first half and another eight in the third quarter, Smart iced Thomas for the first 7:11 of the fourth.  This trend is not exactly sitting well with the Kings starting point guard.
  • While Thomas was busy lighting the Timberwolves up in the first half, Tyreke Evans dominated the second half, scoring 19 of his 21 points after the intermission.  Evans shot an impressive 8-for-11 from the field and finished with five rebounds and five assists in the win.
  • DeMarcus Cousins struggled to lockdown Nikola Pekovic early.  But as the game wore on, the Kings big man made adjustments.  Pek finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, but when it mattered in the second half, he scored just five points and was held to four rebounds.  Cousins didn’t have a monster game, finishing with 15 points and 14 rebounds, but six points and 10 of those boards came after the first half.
  • John Salmons had a quiet, but solid night.  The veteran wing scored 13 points, grabbed five rebounds and handed out three assists in a game-high 43 minutes.
  • Patrick Patterson has had better games, but he is quickly stealing away Jason Thompson‘s minutes.  The former-Rocket scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in 31 minutes, while Thompson played just 21 minutes, coming away with four points and four boards.  Patterson brings some versatility, but Smart still needs to figure out a way to use all three of the Kings’ rotational bigs together.
  • The Kings bench was outscored 46-24 on the night.  Patterson was the only member of the second unit to score in double-figures, while the T-Wolves had solid outings from all five guys who made an appearance off Adelman’s bench.
  • Stat of the Night: The Timberwolves shot 1-for-19 from behind the 3-point line tonight, while the Kings failed to score a single second chance point.

Three answers to three questions pondered

1.  How does Toney Douglas follow up his performance in Tuesday’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers?

With Isaiah Thomas playing out of his mind and the Timberwolves guards missing everything in sight, Toney Douglas was hardly needed tonight.  He finished with five points on 2-for-3 shooting and played just 12 minutes.

2.  Will Nikola Pekovic’s pesky defense slow down DeMarcus Cousins

The Kings had no answer for Pekovic and Pekovic had no answer for Cousins.  Pek beats you to a spot on both ends of the floor and is nearly impossible to dislodge.  Cousins on the other hand uses an array of moves to get where he needs to go.  The two battled, but Cousins had big numbers in limited minutes.

3.  Will Chase Budinger return to the court for the Timberwolves?

Budinger returned at the 6:41 mark of the first quarter, scoring nine points and grabbing four rebounds in 18 minutes of action.  During preame, coach Rick Adelman was very clear that both Budinger and Kirilenko would be limited to six minute bursts and for the most part, that is exactly what we saw in the game.

Quotes of the Game

Keith Smart on match-up between Nikola Pekovic and DeMarcus Cousins:

That was good for him because Pekovic is a strong, strong guy.  I thought that the numbers that Cousins had tonight against him were pretty good.  You have to go through the league and play against a guy a couple of times to understand how they play and how you can still be effective in the game.  You’ve got to keep your composure.  I thought Cousins did some good things with that matchup and he had to play a little physical from both sides.  I thought that Cole (Aldrich) came in and did a good job as well.  We found a group and it was a team effort to win the game.  It was hard to watch for a moment there.

Ricky Rubio on Tyreke Evans:

At some point , he was doing everything – scoring, assisting.  He’s a good player.  He played amazing.  I think the victory is because of him.

Timberwolves Head Coach Rick Adelman on Tyreke Evans:

He just tackled the basket and we weren’t getting in.  We have to get in the paint and we have to kick the ball out.  We didn’t do a consistent job of that.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.  Jonathan Santiago also contributed to this report.