Kings top T’wolves de­spite Towns’ big night

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Chris Hine

SACRA­MENTO — The sav­ing grace of still hav­ing Jimmy But­ler on the ros­ter for the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves amid the noise sur­round­ing his trade re­quest was this — at least the Wolves should not be ter­ri­ble as long as But­ler was on the ros­ter and play­ing well.

But all hasn’t gone ac­cord­ing to plan, with the Wolves reach­ing the nadir of their early sea­son on Fri­day in a 121-110 loss to the Kings at Golden1 Cen­ter to cap off a five-game road trip 0-5.

The de­fense has as many holes in it as a Min­nesota road af­ter a snowy win­ter. The re­bound­ing is as loose as over­sized sweat­pants. And though the Wolves made an ad­mirable push in the fourth quar­ter to trim a 15-point lead to two, the night was in­com­plete, just as most of this sea­son has been. Save for Derrick Rose’s 50-point night last week, there has been lit­tle for the Wolves to revel. At some point But­ler fig­ures to be else­where and the Wolves are run­ning out of time to com­pile wins while he’s still around.

The Wolves wasted a 39-point night from Towns while the Kings had all five starters in dou­ble fig­ures, led by Wil­lie Cauley-Stein with 25 while for­mer Wolves for­ward Ne­manja Bjel­ica had 14.

As he has in the Wolves’ last few games, Towns got off to a roar­ing start as he du­eled with for­mer Ken­tucky team­mate Cauley-Stein and scored 14 in the first.

The Kings, one of the sur­prises of the early sea­son, pre­vented the Wolves from mak­ing it a run­away thanks to CauleyStein, who had nine first-quar­ter points and the Wolves led by just two, 31-29, at the end of one.

Even with An­drew Wiggins (late scratch af­ter reag­gra­vat­ing his right quad con­tu­sion) and guard Jeff Teague out, Thi­bodeau still went with a 10-man ro­ta­tion. The bench, which in­cluded James Nun­nally and C.J. Wil­liams, held serve through the open­ing min­utes of the quar­ter be­fore Towns re-en­tered the game to pick up where he left off. He was able to hurt the Kings in­side and out, at one point stick­ing a con­tested 3 in

Cauley-Stein’s face.

The 29 points Towns scored in the first half were the sec­ond-most he ever scored in a half and the most he ever scored in a first half.

But the Wolves couldn’t dis­tance them­selves from the Kings be­cause of their de­fense. De’Aaron Fox (16 points, 10 as­sists) had just six points in the first half but he dished out seven of his as­sists while Cauley-Stein tried to keep pace with Towns by scor­ing 17 of his own on 7 of 10 shoot­ing.

Towns cooled con­sid­er­ably to start the sec­ond half and didn’t score his first bas­ket un­til the 2:30 mark of the quar­ter. In the in­terim, the Kings added to their lead. Bjel­ica emerged to give his old team prob­lems, scor­ing eight con­sec­u­tive points late in the quar­ter and help­ing the Kings build a 92-81 lead.

The Wolves had trou­ble scor­ing in the third shoot­ing just 6 for 23 from the field and Towns had just two points in the third af­ter his hot start.

The Wolves fell into a five-point hole in the fourth and came back af­ter a blitz of 3-point­ers from Rose and An­thony Tol­liver, but the Kings scored seven straight to go up 115-106 with 2:01 re­main­ing and send the Wolves back to Min­nesota winless on this trip.

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