Saturday night in Sacramento will be Minnesota's second meeting with the Kings this season, with another two matchups to follow (3/16 & 4/13).
The first meeting this season was in Minnesota where the Kings pulled out a narrow 108-111 victory, in what I (and many others) called the worst loss of the season.
Here's the recap of that one if you wish to torture yourself further: Recap.
The Wolves will be looking to avenge that loss and it sounds as though they may have some forgotten faces returning to the court. Nikola Pekovic (missed the last 13-straight) and Martin (7-straight) have participated in 5-on-5 scrimmages the past two days and every indication says they'll suit up on Saturday night.
The Wolves have gone 6-7 without Pekovic these past 13 games and it has most definitely been a tumultuous ride. Those 13 games have included both a four-game losing streak, subsequently followed by a three-game winning streak.
Without Pek & Martin, the Wolves are without two of their top three scorers. As such, Minnesota's leading scorer (Love) has been asked to do a lot more and he has most certainly delivered. Love continues to rattle off 25-30-point games like they're routine. In the month of February, Love averaged 34 points & 14 rebounds, which included eight 30-point games and two 40-point games!
The Timberwolves haven't been significantly better on the defensive end without Pek & Martin. The shot-blocking and rim protection have been a bit better, but that's expected when you replace 35 minutes of Nikola with 30 of Ronny Turiaf, 25 of Dante Cunningham and another 5-10 of Gorgui Dieng. The Wolves block totals will definitely take a hit, but so long as everyone remains committed to exerting at least a little energy on the defensive end, it shouldn't be a significant difference.
The Wolves offense has certainly been a little one-dimensional lately. They've relied on a lot of jumpers and hook shots from Love as well as the occasional transition bucket. With Martin & Pek back they'll be able to space the floor much better and re-establish that punishing inside presence that opens up so many other opportunities for everyone else on the floor.
It's important to remember that neither is likely in 'tip-top' shape and it will take some time for them to get their conditioning back to the level it was at mid-season. I'd assume that both will have some kind of minute restriction (maybe not so much Martin, but most certainly Pek).
With Martin returning, it will certainly be interesting to see how Adelman handles the rotations at the wings. It's clear that Alexey Shved has fallen completely out of the rotation. Hummel will return to the inactive list. Mbah a Moute will probably see more time at power forward than small forward with no Ronny Turiaf and Dante getting more reserve center minutes. That leaves Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger & Shabazz Muhammad. Brewer has started all but one game this season (he missed one for the birth of his son). I assume he'll remain the starting small forward. Chase Budinger and Shabazz Muhammad are now likely your backup shooting guards/small forwards. Shabazz has most definitely played himself into the rotation the past couple weeks and Budinger hasn't done a whole lot to force you to play him more than 20 minutes a night. I don't think Bazz will suddenly average 25 minutes a game for the remainder of the season, but if he's able to put up 10-15 points, grab 5-6 rebounds and at least make an effort defensively, there's no reason not to give him 20-25 minutes a night.
Saturday's game will mark the second time in his NBA career that Derrick Williams will face the Wolves. Minnesota traded D-Will to the Kings (in exchange for Mbah a Moute) in late November. Williams played 11 games for the Wolves this season averaging 4.9 points & 2.4 rebounds in 14.7 minutes a game. With the Kings, Williams is averaging 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 26.3 minutes a game in 43 games and 11 starts. After the Kings acquired Rudy Gay, that certainly affected Williams' playing time, but he's definitely getting a chance in Sacramento. Just like in his Minnesota days, he isn't do much with those opportunities.
In addition the D-Will & Rudy Gay deal, the Kings also made a trade at the deadline sending Marcus Thornton to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Jason Terry & Reggie Evans. Terry is out for the season with a knee injury and won't play for Sacramento this season. The Kings also recently released former 10th overall pick Jimmer Fredette. Fredette never could carve out a role during his time in Sacramento. Ironically enough, the player they selected 60th overall that year (2011) has been their starting point guard the past few years (Isaiah Thomas). It sounds as though he'll likely sign with the Chicago Bulls once he clears waivers. With an open roster spot, the Kings signed former Pacer (waived after Indiana acquired Lavoy Allen & Evan Turner) Orlando Johnson to a 10-day contract. They're also reportedly considering signing Royce White to a 10-day contract.
The front office and coaching staff went through a major overhaul this past offseason for the Kings, but it seems as though they continue to make the kinds of deals that got them where they are in the first place.
The game tips at 9pmCST from Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, enjoy!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!