Nikola Pekovic and DeMarcus Cousins were both unavailable for tonight's game with lower body injuries. As such, each team turned to their reserve center and in Minnesota's case that meant third-string center rookie Gorgui Dieng.
In his first career start, Dieng finished with his first career double-double. He set new season-highs in points (12), rebounds (11) and blocks (5) in a season-high 37 minutes.
Dieng provided the rim protector the Wolves have been missing since losing Ronny Turiaf to that knee injury. Dieng blocked 5 shots and altered another half dozen. If Pek is going to miss extended time, Adelman may decide to stick with Dieng at center (instead of Dante Cunningham who he has started before when both Pek & Turiaf are out of the lineup).
The Wolves got great production from their stand-in center and just as the last time these two teams met, Kevin Martin had little trouble scoring at will against rookie Ben McLemore. Martin finished with a game-high 31 points which included a number of clutch free throws down the stretch that helped seal the two-point victory, hitting a perfect 14 for 14.
Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas got hot late and brought his Kings all the way back. The Kings couldn't get the stops down the stretch.
The Kings are the only team in the NBA with three 20+ point per game scorers: Isaiah Thomas, Rudy Gay & DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins sat this out this one with knee tendinitis and Gay played just 26 minutes and finished with 14 points on 40% shooting. Thomas was the only one to hit that 20+ with 27. Thomas scored 9 of those points in the fourth quarter, with all 9 coming in the final two minutes and 7 of those 9 coming in the final 17 seconds.
This Kings team obviously employs former Wolves forward Derrick Williams. He was sent to Sacramento in November for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. His play in Sacramento mirrors what he did in Minnesota--the occasional awe-inspiring game combined with a lot of inconsistent play in the majority of his outings.
Williams says he gets 'turned up' going against his former squad. Unfortunately he can't seem to exert that kind of energy and effort in every contest. He finished with a double-double: 26 & 11 in 28 minutes off the bench.
The Wolves were out-rebounded once again, finishing with 35 rebounds for the second-straight outing. They also allowed their opponents to shoot a high percentage from the field, but made up for that disparity by attempting 19 more free throws and hitting 16 more. They also limited their turnovers, while forcing Sacramento into 17 of their own.
As promised, Adelman shortened his rotations and that meant limited minutes for guys like Mbah a Moute (6) and Budinger (4). It also meant that after playing 14-straight games and giving the Wolves some production, Shabazz Muhammad received a DNP-CD. Instead, Adelman turned to Robbie Hummel and it proved to be beneficial. Robbie came in and in his first 60 seconds on the floor he scored 4 quick points and drew a charge on Derrick Williams. As the season winds down, it'll be interesting to see how Adelman handles his rotations especially if/when Pek & Turiaf return (and if guys like Muhammad, Hummel & Dieng continue to provide production off the bench).
The Wolves move to 33-32 on the year and head into a critical three-game stretch this week, with a back-to-back Texas Two Step: Wednesday in Dallas & Thursday in Houston, followed up by a Sunday matinee in Phoenix. All Western Conference teams vying for a playoff spot (though Houston has a spot practically wrapped up).
Tipoff on Wednesday night is set for 7:30pmCST from Dallas.
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!