The Minnesota Timberwolves led by as many as 12 points in this one, but a Tyreke Evans-led Sacramento Kings squad rallied back in the second half to grab a 98-101 victory.
Tyreke Evans scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half, including 11 in the fourth quarter to lead his team to their second-straight victory.
After three quarters the Wolves were down 77-79. The biggest key to this Kings W tonight was that they never let things get completely out of control. Sacramento was able to keep the Wolves within striking distance as 12 was the biggest Wolves lead of the game.
Tyreke Evans took over in the final quarter and got pretty much whatever he wanted. His 11 fourth quarter points were an array of big layups at the rim. He got there by using his physicality to simply overpower the Wolves smaller guards.
With just four and a half minutes to go in the fourth, the Wolves found themselves down 89-97. Then, Ricky Rubio got going, over the next three minutes, Ricky scored 8-straight points for the Wolves to make it 97-99 with 1:36 to play.
Isaiah Thomas missed a three-pointer on the other end and the Wolves then had a chance to tie it up with just over one minute to play. Rubio missed an open 17-footer on a dish from Cunningham, Patterson rebounded and Evans capitalized on the other end with a short 7-foot jump shot. The Kings were now up 97-101 with 41 seconds to play. Rick Adelman took a full timeout.
On the ensuing possession, Rubio missed a three-pointer, but Pek rebounded the ball and was fouled by DeMarcus Cousins. That sent Pek to the line for two free throws, he missed the first, but made the second to make it 98-101 with 34 seconds to play--Kings ball. Tyreke Evans made a lazy pass on the other end and the Wolves had a chance to win it with just under 10 seconds to play. Rubio quickly pushed the ball up the court, Rubio was trapped on the left wing, but he was able to get it to Ridnour who touch passed it to Dante Cunningham who then had to throw up a desperation 25-footer at the buzzer that didn't hit rim but all glass.
The worst part about the final sequence was that the Wolves had two 20 second timeouts remaining. They could've called a timeout, got their three-point shooters back in the game and had a much better chance. You've got to remember, the Wolves hit just one three-pointer tonight and that was courtesy of Chase Budinger. He was on the bench along with the Wolves' other good three shooters: Derrick Williams & J.J. Barea. You've got to think, having J.J., Derrick or Chase throwing up a three would've been better than Dante. If they had taken a timeout and got their three-point shooters back in the game, would it have made a difference? The Wolves were 1-for-18 at that point and finished the game 1-for-19 (5.3%).
Chase did make his return to the court tonight after a lengthy absence because of that torn lateral meniscus. He came off the bench and finished with 9pts, 4reb & 1stl in 18 minutes. He went 3-of-7 from the field, 1-of-3 from deep and 2-for-2 from the line. We'll have to wait and see if the Wolves will play him right away in a back-to-back situation, tomorrow in Phoenix.
Minnesota is now 23-43 on the season and with Sacramento's win, the Wolves are now 13th in the Western Conference (previously 12th). It sucks now, but the silver lining will be in June with the Wolves quite possibly having the higher draft pick.
Tonight's top performers...
The Wolves got a big game from Nikola Pekovic. He continues to have big games against the Kings and DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins (as usual) played limited minutes (28) because of foul trouble, but he still finished with a 15 & 14. It was good to see Pek get back to 'having his way' in the paint and getting a lot of easy buckets. He scored 9 quick points within the first 4.5 minutes of the first quarter and finished with 11 of his 18 in that opening quarter. He's struggled a bit since coming back from that abdomen injury and appears to be getting his conditioning back up (he played a team-high 34 minutes tonight).
Rubio struggled shooting the ball (as usual) tonight, but was still able to stuff the stat sheet. With Kevin Love out, there are a lot of rebounds out there, Rubio is one player who works extra hard on the boards to help try and pick up that slack. As such, it makes him a viable triple double threat every time he steps on the court.
The Kings' starting backcourt found great success against the Wolves tonight. Thomas got going early and Evans took over late for this Kings victory. To many times this season, the Wolves' backcourt players haven't been up to par defensively. Certainly something that needs to be addressed this offseason...and needed to be addressed last offseason...and the offseason before that...
The Wolves shot 5.3% from three...yeah...that's a new season-low. They also shot a season-high 98 field goals. The Wolves' three-point shooting and the defense against Sacramento (allowing them to shoot 53.3% from the field) was the key to this loss. The Wolves had an amazing advantage in second chance points--it's not above, but the Wolves held a 21-0 advantage! They also held the Kings to a season-low (for a Wolves opponent) 4 offensive rebounds. Add to that, the Wolves' 46-24 advantage in bench production. Unfortunately, the Kings' high shooting percentage aided by their 28 fast break points helped the Kings steal this W.
The Wolves will be back in action tomorrow night as they'll take on the Suns in Phoenix to complete this three-game road trip. Stay tuned for the preview, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!