December 14, 2017, 11:39 pm
The Wolves jumped out to an early lead over the Sacramento Kings and never really looked back. The team shot 56.1 percent from the field, 47.6 percent from 3-point range and 85 percent from the line. They committed only nine turnovers while assisting on 29-of-46 buckets.
The Wolves held the Kings to 41.4 percent shooting overall and forced them into 14 turnovers. Add it all up and the Wolves won 119-96.
Karl-Anthony Towns was able to feast on the Kings, going for 30 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, five blocks, one steal and two 3-pointers. He shot 11-of-16 from the field, spending a lot of time down low with his back to the basket.
The Kings just didn’t have anyone to match his combination of physicality and speed. They opened the game with Skal Labissiere, but his length didn’t bother Towns, who just bullied him around. They turned to Willie Cauley-Stein, who again just couldn’t compete physically, but held his own more than Skal.
Zach Randolph spent most of his time versus Gibson or Dieng, but when the Wolves played small they matched-up briefly. Again Towns had the advantage, this time with speed and length.
No matter who it was out there, they just had no answer. There’s no doubt as to why the Wolves were able to consistently score then. Every time they wanted a basket they were able to throw it to Towns, and he was making the right play each time whether he was scoring on his own or making the pass to an open teammate.
The sustained success in the post opened up the floor for the Wolves’ 3-point shooting. Discounting the half-court heave that Teague made at the halftime buzzer, the Wolves shot 9-of-20 on 3-pointers. A couple of those were off of Towns’ kick-outs.
Wiggins was one of those waiting on the perimeter and cashing in, making 3-of-4 3-pointers, scoring 22 points on the night.
Jimmy Butler had an excellent all-around night as well, scoring 21 points with seven rebounds, nine assists, two steals and two blocks on 7-of-10 shooting and 7-of-7 at the line. He also didn’t commit a single turnover.
Despite the blowout, Thibs still played his starters for long stretches in this game. Butler led the way with 36 minutes, followed by Towns at 35 and Wiggins at 34. In a 23-point victory those numbers lean on the high side.
Luckily there was additional bench action. For the first time since December 1, six games ago, Thibs played more than an eight-player rotation. And tonight it was a pleasant surprise who received the extra minutes.
Marcus Georges-Hunt, who only logged nine minutes coming into this game, opened the second quarter in the lineup with the regular bench crew. It wasn’t a short stint either, playing 17 minutes on the night, while checking in four times.
He was able to snuggle right into the offense. He hit a corner three off a kick out, he made the extra pass to a wide-open Wiggins, and he was hustling all over the court defensively. MGH would be an undersized wing, but if he bring the energy he brought tonight on a consistent basis, that would offer more than they were getting prior at his position.
It remains to be seen whether this was a one-game thing versus a rough Kings’ squad, or potentially a regular opportunity going forward. MGH made his impression and played well in his minutes. This doesn’t guarantee anything with Thibs (see- Tyus Jones), but the one thing is for certain is MGH will bring it every time.
Gorgui Dieng has a nice mop-up game off the bench, scoring only four points but grabbing eight rebounds, dishing two assists, swiping four balls and swatting one shot. With Bjelica hopefully returning soon, the Wolves’ has the look of a formidable unit should the man in the middle decide to unleash them.
Looking ahead the Wolves continue their homestand against another Pacific Division team, the Phoenix Suns. This will be the third of four meetings between the teams, with Minnesota looking to take the series 2-1.