Game 14 Preview: Kings at Timberwolves
The Sacramento Kings suffered their worst loss of the season Saturday – a 99-60 drubbing at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. They’ll try to wipe the slate clean with a win tonight against Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves in the final contest of their five-game road trip.
Kings Probable Starters (4-9)
|Tyreke Evans||Marcus Thornton||John Salmons||J.J. Hickson||DeMarcus Cousins|
The Kings set marks for futility in Saturday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. They scored just 23-points in the first half – the fourth time in the last 15 seasons the Kings have been unable to reach 30 points before halftime. And they shot just 25.6 percent from the field, beating a Sacramento-era previous low of 27.9 percent set in 2008.
Timberwolves Probable Starters (4-8)
|Ricky Rubio||Luke Ridnour||Wes Johnson||Kevin Love||Darko Milcic|
In their last four games, the Timberwolves have compiled a 2-2 record, recording wins against the Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets. All eyes have been on Ricky Rubio, who has impressed and dazzled so far, tallying a career high 14-assists in the win against Washington. But the Wolves success hinges on Kevin Love, who is proving to be among the league’s elite. The Timberwolves big man is averaging 25 points and 14.6 rebounds per game, which ranks him second and fifth in both categories respectively among league leaders.
You may be familiar with ESPN.com’s 5-on-5 roundtables, which feature opinion and analysis from ESPN writers and TrueHoop Network contributors on pressing NBA topics. Along with other THN blogs, Cowbell Kingdom has brought that format to the local level in the form of our own 3-on-3 roundtable.
1. Match-up to watch?
Zach Harper: DeMarcus Cousins vs Kevin Love. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Cousins is capable of getting to the statistical output Love puts up on the boards each night. However, the desire to make the right decisions each time the ball goes up seems to be what separates Love from the rest of the rebounders in the league. Cousins should be able to exploit this match-up due to his strength and size advantage. But is he willing to temper his… well…temper and keep his effort up for an entire game? He’ll have to in order to best Love.
James Herbert: Ricky Rubio vs. Tyreke Evans. We don’t know how much time they’ll spend guarding one another, but if they do, it will be interesting for reasons that go beyond the 2009 draft storyline. Can Rubio bother Evans with his length or will Evans bully him with his strength? If Rubio draws a charge or crosses Evans over, the Target Center will explode.
Jonathan Santiago: Ricky Rubio vs. Tyreke Evans. On one hand, you have a showstopper in Rubio. On the other, you have a basketball bully in Evans. I’m particularly interested to see how Evans defends against Rubio’s passing.
2. Stat that decides the game…
Zach Harper: Three-point shooting. Last year, the Wolves were the sixth-best team in the NBA when it came to making threes. This year, they’re only 15th in the NBA, and they’re facing a Kings team that gives up the fifth-worst percentage from beyond the arc. The Wolves’ game is mostly drive-and-kick with the brilliance of Ricky Rubio whipping the ball around the court. If the Kings can closeout and make the Wolves attack the basket, they have a real chance of stopping Minnesota’s attack.
James Herbert: Assists. The Kings had 10 assists in Saturday’s game that should probably never be mentioned again. They have yet to win the assist battle in a game this year. Despite the presence of Ricky Rubio, Minnesota’s the third-worst team in the league when it comes to assists. If the Kings are going to finally beat a team in that category, it could be tonight.
Jonathan Santiago: Turnovers. Averaging 17.3 per contest, the Timberwolves rank 29th in the NBA in turnovers. More than half of them come off thefts, as they allow 9.58 steals per game. Forcing Minnesota to cough up the ball can fuel the Kings’ fastbreak.
3. Was Tyreke Evans over Ricky Rubio the right choice for the Kings in 2009?
Zach Harper: Yes. The Kings needed toughness and a change of the style they played. They were initially galvanized by what Reke brought to the table. We don’t know that Rubio would have come over to play in Sacramento right away, and not having a rookie to help excite people about the future of this team would have been detrimental to keeping them in the city. Whether Rubio can somehow become a better player than Evans down the road doesn’t seem to matter. The Kings, and more importantly Sacramento, got what they needed from Reke right away.
James Herbert: Yes. Right now, with the Kings in desperate need of someone, anyone who will pass the ball, Rubio would be a godsend. At the time, though, Evans was a steal with the fourth overall pick. While it’s too early to tell who will be the better player, it’s unfair to say Sacramento made the wrong call.
Jonathan Santiago: Yes. It would have been a challenge for the Spaniard to make a difference as a distributor given that the Kings lacked much talent the last two years. Even though the Kings could really use a true point guard like Rubio right now, Evans was and still is the better player.