February 11, 2018, 10:15 pm
This was perhaps a much closer game than many anticipated going into the contest. The Wolves have been the hottest team at home lately, winning 13 straight at home while owning the best net rating. The Kings are a bottom feeder in the Western Conference and have had a tough time scoring and defending this season no matter the venue.
Naturally the game came down to the wire with the Wolves needing to come up with big stops and clutch shots. In fact the Wolves trailed the majority of the game and had to claw back into it in the fourth quarter.
With the way the Wolves lost the last two games, they’ll take this win no matter how they got there. There were still many areas of concern, especially defensively, though at least the offense continues to hum along.
The Wolves came right out of the gate and feed Karl-Anthony Towns in the post and he responded with eight first-quarter points. On the other side, De’Aaron Fox sprinted out of the gates with 14 points in the first and led the Kings to a 29-22 first quarter.
From there the Kings remained fairly consistent. They had a solid gameplan coming into the game and stuck with it throughout, something they didn’t have before the trade deadline. Perhaps after the trade of George Hill the Kings are focused on playing to Fox’s strengths.
Defensively the Wolves didn’t do a great job slowing down the Kings when they wanted to speed up the game a bit and just seemed a step ahead in getting to their spots all night. Even when the Kings were missing, their players were in good position to rebound and get second opportunities.
On the night the Kings has 22 second-chance points to the Wolves’ 11. The Wolves had a tough night rebounding on the defensive end. The Kings took 14 more shots, and missed 11 more, yet out-rebounded the Wolves by six on the night.
The Kings are in the bottom 20 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, so this was certainly an issue that causes some concern.
As the game rolled on the Kings continued to put pressure on the Wolves. They led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, and five going into the fourth. The Wolves found a way to win in the end though. After 20 second chance points going into the third, the Wolves allowed just two in the fourth.
The offense also bailed out the Wolves once again, scoring 36 points in the final quarter to seal the game.
Minnesota can play defense in spurts as seen in a dynamic fourth quarter sequence where both Towns and Wiggins chased down Fox on a break to block his shot and the ensuing offensive rebound.
The problem is still consistency and communication. The Wolves don’t need to be an elite defense just yet because even a middle of the road defense will be able to play up thanks to their offense, which rarely takes a night off.
Tonight the Wolves shot 50 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from beyond the arc (9-of-24) and 87.5 percent from the line (28-of-32).
Towns was the leading scorer with 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting. He added eight rebounds, six assists (including five in the fourth quarter), one steal, three blocks and two 3-pointers.
Jimmy Butler chipped in 18 points with five rebounds, three assists, two steals and one 3-pointer. He scored 11 of his 18 in the final quarter.
Andrew Wiggins had a very solid 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting with eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer.
Jeff Teague added a quiet double-double with 12 points and 10 assists on 4-of-5 shooting. His defense has still been tough to watch as he seemingly is running in mud the majority of the time.
Taj Gibson scored 15 points in one of his best games in a while, taking advantage of Zach Randolph on defense.
Up next the Wolves will host the Rockets on Tuesday. If the Wolves come out with the same (lack of) intensity they did tonight, they will get run out of the building. They’ll need to channel the play that led them through their dominant stretch in late December/early January.
If they can somehow pull off a victory, it could be just the boost the team could use heading into the stretch drive of the season.