Game Preview: Kings (7-5) at Timberwolves (3-8)


Remember back in the glory days when a Sacramento Kings game was the highlight of your weekend?

The 2014 Sacramento Kings are gradually working their way up to that status, and Thursday’s nationally-televised handling of the Chicago Bulls only heightened the excitement. This Kings team is not only fun to watch; they’re pretty good, too.

Sacramento now takes its show back on the road, starting with a Saturday night tilt with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The T-Wolves came into the year with similar expectations to the Kings — maybe contend for a final playoff spot, but most likely try to develop a system and a core group of players.

Minnesota’s plan has taken a turn recently, with injuries befalling some of their key players. Ricky Rubio has been sidelined for weeks with a serious ankle sprain. He was joined on the injured list by Nikola Pekovic and former Kings guard Kevin Martin, who fractured his wrist Wednesday. All three will miss Saturday’s game.

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  • This sets up a seemingly winnable game for Sacramento, but still one that cannot be taken lightly. Do the Kings play down to their opponent and start their road trip on the wrong foot? Or do they come out and take care of business, beating a clearly inferior lineup before heading to New Orleans?

    What To Watch For:

    DMC’s Matchup — DeMarcus Cousins has traditionally had problems against Pekovic, a powerful low-post presence on both ends. With the T-Wolves center sidelined, the team will turn to second-year big man Gorgui Dieng. Dieng, while talented and developing, presents a different look from Pekovic. Offensively, Cousins should be able to attack at will, as Dieng, while excelling as a shot-blocker, does not have the strength to keep Boogie out of the paint. On the other end, Dieng is far less likely to get Cousins in foul trouble. He sports a decent mid-range shot and nice touch around the basket, but he is not the power player Pekovic is. As such, this is a matchup the Kings should look to exploit.

    Perimeter Shooting — Minnesota’s trade of Kevin Love and loss of Martin leaves the team relatively shallow when it comes to outside shooting threats. Swingmen Andrew Wiggins, Corey Brewer and Shabazz Muhammad, who all started Friday against the Spurs, have combined to net just 11 three-pointers on the season. Point guard Mo Williams is a threat from long-range, but if Darren Collison can bottle him up — as he has done with other lead guards this season — Minnesota could struggle to score.

    Derrick Williams In Minnesota — Last season, Derrick Williams returned to Minnesota and burned his former mates, dropping 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 28 bench minutes. On Thursday, Coach Michael Malone gave Williams a rare shot to contribute, and the forward played some of his best ball of the season. D-Will has always been at his best when attacking, and he did that against the Bulls. A little motivation going against the team that drafted him may be just the ingredient needed to help Williams sustain his solid play. He has certainly earned another set of minutes.

    The Line: The Kings are 9-point favorites on the road in Minnesota. I’m taking Minnesota with the points. It’s not a belief that Sacramento loses this game, but more a thought that the Timberwolves will at least make it a game late. The Kings are still proving that they can take a big lead and hold it for 12-, 24-, 36-minutes. I need to see more before predicting blowout victories.

    Final Thoughts: A win should be expected from the Kings and their fans. Minnesota is playing short-handed on the second night of a back-to-back. There are no excuses for Sacramento, who is establishing itself as a threat to beat anyone on any night, to let a struggling Timberwolves side hang around in this one. Set the tone early, continue to play with maximum effort on both ends and rely on your talent.