• Following a loss to the 76ers on Tuesday night, the Wolves will host the Sacramento Kings looking to get back in the win column.

    Sacramento had a brutal start to the season, going 1-8, but have started to turn things around by going 8-10 over their last 18 games. The Kings are towards the bottom in both offensive and defensive ratings, ranking 29th and 24th respectively. They also play at a real slow pace, ranking 28th slowest in the NBA.

    These numbers confirm that the Kings are still a poor team, but they do have a few strengths that could cause fits for the Wolves.

    First, the Kings are an excellent 3-point shooting team. They rank fifth in the NBA with a 38.1 3-point percentage, led by Buddy Hield who’s shooting 47.2 percent from 3-point range. Other key deep shooters are George Hill (.443), Garrett Temple (.378), Frank Mason (.433), Bogdan Bogdanovic (.325) and even Zach Randolph (.351).

    The Wolves have struggled guarding the 3-point line, especially allowing corner 3-pointers and bench snipers to get hot. With Hield coming off the bench it could be trouble.

    Second, the Kings have a number of athletic players to run the floor when the Kings allow them to. Of course led by De’Aaron Fox, the No. 5 pick in last years draft, and also Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein and Frank Mason, among others. With the right combination of players o the floor, they are effective playing fast.

    The Wolves prefer to keep the pace of the game at a slow burn, especially with Thibs running his starters into the ground. With a high expectation of minutes, it’s tough to expect good results if the starters are forced to chase down opponents in transition.

    Third, the Kings are quite deep and aren’t afraid to unleash their bench. Though they aren’t particularly great, the Kings have a number of useful players, both young and old, and have consistently been in a roster crunch throughout the season.

    The Wolves play a tight rotation with 8-to-9 guys, but with the top five getting everything they can handle. Most of the night the Wolves will be facing a fresh lineup to their fatigued one.

    This should be a winnable game for the Wolves but nothing is a guarantee in this league. If the Wolves allow the Kings to excel in the categories above, and the Wolves play another game just going through the motions, then it could end up a close one.

    Key Matchups:

    – Taj Gibson vs. Zach Randolph

    – Jimmy Butler vs. De’Aaron Fox

    It’s likely that KAT may guard Randolph, or Randolph may guard the center, at times, but it’s likely Z-Bo is much too physical for KAT. Gibson is a better fit thanks to his length and strength. The Kings don’t have much of a reliable low post option besides Randolph, so Gibson will control the paint.

    On the other side of the ball, the Wolves should have a mismatch no matter who is lined up against Towns. He’ll have the speed advantage on Z-Bo and Koufos, and the strength advantage on Cauley-Stein and Skal.

    Meanwhile on the perimeter Butler will likely spend more time guarding the speedy point guard than others, but understandably could switch onto Hill many times, or Mason. Hill and Mason are undersized and slower compared to Fox, which is the likely reason behind the defensive assignment.

    Either way, the opportunity to switch on most pick-and-rolls gives the Wolves great opportunities for the defensive side of the ball. Most important though will be keeping Fox slowed down and forced into jump shots.

    In the end this will likely come down to the Kings’ depth versus the Wolves’ talent. Will the Kings speed the game up and use their fresh players against the Wolves tired ones, or will Minnesota win with the best players on the floor?

    Projected Lineups:

    Jeff Teague- PG

    Jimmy Butler – SG

    Andrew Wiggins – SF

    Taj Gibson – PF

    Karl-Anthony Towns – C

    vs.

    George Hill – PG/SG

    De’Aaron Fox – SG/PG

    Garrett Temple – SF

    Skal Labissiere – PF

    Zach Randolph – C

    Injuries:

    Nemanja Bjelica (foot) – OUT

    Harry Giles (knee) – OUT

    Where to Watch:

    8:00 ET/7:00 CT on Fox Sports North

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