Game 26 Notes: The Sacramento Kings Throw One Away in Minnesota


The Minnesota Timberwolves, winners in just one of its last nine games, entered Friday’s contest with a 9-16 record overall, including a 3-10 record in Target Center, the team’s home arena. The Sacramento Kings, meanwhile, winners in each of its last three games, came into yesterday’s contest at 10-15 on the season, on two full days of rest for its first game, its most winnable game, on a four-game road trip.

The Timberwolves, scoring 99 points, won. The Kings, with 95, lost.

No King could contain Andrew Wiggins, who led all scorers with 32 points on 20 shots, adding six assists and 10 rebounds. Shabazz Muhammad led all bench scorers with 16 points, though Darren Collison tallied 15 of his own. Every Minnesota starter compiled a positive plus/minus, while each Sacramento starter sported a negative figure in the same metric.

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That Minnesota’s starting five so outplayed Sacramento’s was especially surprising, considering the Rajon Rondo/Ben McLemore/Omri Casspi/Rudy Gay/DeMarcus Cousins lineup is +27 in net points over its opponents this season, per Basketball-Reference. (For what it’s worth, the Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio/Andrew Wiggins/Tayshaun Prince/Kevin Garnett/Karl-Anthony Towns lineup is +11.)

Casspi cracked the Kings’ starting lineup in response to Willie Cauley-Stein’s injury, which occurred in the closing minutes of a loss to Boston seven games ago. Though Sacramento’s 3-3 record in that time (including yesterday’s result) is rather pedestrian, the effect of Omri’s promotion has been significant.

Defensively, in this season’s first 19 games, Sacramento allowed its opponents to shoot 55.7 percent from the field, the worst such mark in the NBA. However, following Casspi’s insertion into the starting five, six games have yielded an opponent’s field goal percentage of 46.4 percent, tied with Cleveland for the best such statistic out of 30 teams, per

And, in yesterday’s game, the defense was okay. The offense was okay. The Kings’ effort, however, was not.

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While the effects of most all “hustle plays” escape box scores, rebounds can offer some insight, and Minnesota out-rebounded Sacramento 49 to 31. Some of that definitely has to do with a smaller lineup being played in Cauley-Stein’s absence, though that’s not enough to account for a difference of 18.

Also, in the first half alone, several Kings were beaten on pretty basic backdoor cuts, where a player from the Timberwolves would cut to the basket while its defender was caught watching the ball elsewhere—an example of a lack of mental discipline.

How a team on two days of rest, a team that constantly talks a big game about pushing for the playoffs, could come out lethargic and slow for a winnable road game is puzzling. Kings fans care so much about returning their team to relevancy, and even though the players probably care too, on nights like yesterday’s, they certainly don’t make that impression, which is frustrating.

It’s losses like these, completely winnable losses, that have been thrown away by Kings teams of the recent past time and time again.

After a short stretch of three good games, last night’s was a reminder that despite a relatively new roster, new coaching staff and new season promising grand improvement, as of right now, the same problems still plague the same franchise.