Game 45 Preview: Kings vs. Timberwolves

Rick Adelman returns to Sacramento for the first time as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.  The Sacramento Kings look to avenge two narrow defeats to Adelman’s Wolves in today’s matinee game.


Gametime: 3 pm PST
Broadcast Information: Click here.
For perspective on the Timberwolves, visit fellow TrueHoop Network blog A Wolf Among Wolves.

Kings Probable Starters (15-29)

Isaiah Thomas Marcus Thornton John Salmons Jason Thompson DeMarcus Cousins

No word yet if Tyreke Evans will go today.  The Kings starting small forward sprained his left ankle against the Detroit Pistons Wednesday and missed Friday night’s win over the Boston Celtics.  Sacramento did fine without Evans in the lineup, scoring a season-high 120 points in the blowout victory.

Timberwolves Probable Starters (22-23)

Luke Ridnour Martell Webster Wes Johnson Kevin Love Nikola Pekovic

Since losing rookie sensation Ricky Rubio to season-ending injury, the Timberwolves have lost three of their last four games.  However, Luke Ridnour has filled in admirably in Rubio’s absence.  Since moving over from shooting guard back to his natural position of point guard, Ridnour has averaged 13.5 points and 10.8 assists per game.

3-on-3 Roundtable

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.

Zach Harper of A Wolf Among Wolves and Michael Rand of Minneapolis Star-Tribune join me to preview today’s Kings/Timberwolves game.

1. Match-up to watch?

Zach Harper: Pekovic vs Cousins. Last time these two teams played, Pek dominated Cousins for most of the game and had him in foul trouble early. It took away Cousins’ ability to be physical inside and his aggressiveness. Wolves need to win that match-up again if they want to even up this road trip to 2-2. Pek has dominated most center match-ups over the last two months.

Michael Rand: If he plays, Tyreke Evans vs. whomever tries to guard him. Sure, Cousins vs. the Wolves bigs will be fun to watch, but one of the underrated ways the Wolves sorely miss Ricky Rubio is his perimeter defense. He is active, long and deceptively quick. Evans had just 20 combined points in two losses this year when Rubio was healthy. It will be tougher for Minnesota to contain him should he play.

Jonathan Santiago:  Nikola Pekovic vs. DeMarcus Cousins.  Pekovic got the best of Cousins in their last match-up, scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.  Cousins, on the other hand, seemed determined to force the issue instead of letting his game come to him and finished with just 10 points in defeat.

2. Stat that decides the game…

Zach Harper: Three-point shooting. The Wolves are 10-3 when they shoot 40 percent or greater from three-point range. Minnesota is also 12-5 when they make eight or more three-pointers in a game. If the Wolves can spread the floor and stretch out the Kings’ defense, they should be able to grab a road win.

Michael Rand: 40 percent — That’s about what the Wolves are shooting from three-point range in victories this season, as opposed to roughly 28 percent in losses. They tend to be a very streaky team from behind the arc, but if they can hit their shots against the Kings early, they will be in good shape. (Yeah, making shots is good … quite the analysis. But still).

Jonathan Santiago:  Pace.  The pace factor of the two previous games against Minnesota were below the Kings current 93.8 average.  When the game is fast and has more possessions, the Kings are usually playing to their strengths.

3. In the long-run, would the Timberwolves benefit more from making or missing the playoffs?

Zach Harper: There is no benefit from the Wolves not making the playoffs. They don’t own their own draft pick and they only get a first round pick if Utah makes the playoffs. To be able to make the playoffs in the first year of a new system, without many practices to get things set, and with the loss of Rubio 2/3 of the way through the season, would be a huge building moment for this team.

Michael Rand: Making the playoffs. While losing Ricky Rubio right before this seven-game road trip was a cruel fate that put a dent in playoff plans, this would be even crueler: The Wolves miss the postseason but finally get some lottery luck … only to see the pick, originally sent to the Clippers in the Marko Jaric nightmare trade 1,000 years ago, pay off for New Orleans.

Jonathan Santiago:  Since they don’t have have their pick, they’d probably be better off making the postseason and getting some playoff experience.  However, I’m not sure they’ll be able to jump ahead of the Rockets, who play four of their next five games in Houston.  The Timberwolves, meanwhile, play four of their next five on the road.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.