Kings top T’wolves despite Towns’ big night
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
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.