Timberwolves Wrap: New game, same story

Oct 29, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) speaks with head coach Tom Thibodeau (L) on the sideline against the Sacramento Kings during the third quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Kings won 106-103. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 29, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) speaks with head coach Tom Thibodeau (L) on the sideline against the Sacramento Kings during the third quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Kings won 106-103. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

The Timberwolves fell to 0-2 on the season and blew their second big lead in as many games as they fell to the Kings in Sacramento on Saturday night.

103. 86. 106. 84. Final

It was almost like re-watching the Timberwolves game against Memphis.

The Wolves had a very good defensive first quarter and built an 18-point lead in the second quarter. Then, the opposing team took over, the Wolves missed free throws and finally lost, 106-103.

Once again, the first quarter started out in excellent fashion. The Wolves held the Kings to 41.7 percent from the field while converting on 66.7 percent of their attempts. Towns put the Wolves up 9-8 with 8:10 left in the quarter, a lead they didn’t surrender until the midway through the third.

New coach Tom Thibodeau continued his preseason and opening game theme of letting Ricky Rubio play the opening nine minutes of the first quarter before subbing him for Kris Dunn. LaVine was also subbed for Rush at this point, and a minute later Towns and Dieng were also taken out of the game. This led to a staggered lineup for the Wolves, which is something that should be utilized more frequently.

Wiggins finished the opening quarter with 13 points on 5-8 shooting including 1-3 from beyond the arc, and the Wolves led 34-25. If not for two heavily contested threes from Matt Barnes and Garrett Temple late in the quarter, the Kings would’ve been held to 19 points in the opening period.

Shabazz Muhammad subbed in for Wiggins to open the second quarter and his impact was immediately felt, going 2-2 for seven points with a rebound and assist in six minutes. At the 8:51 mark of the second quarter the Wolves led by 18. Then, the momentum began to shift and the defense waned once again.

Rudy Gay had a breakaway dunk and Towns lost track of the shot clock for a Wolves turnover.  Boogie Cousins ate Gorgui Dieng and Cole Aldrich for breakfast until he was called for a technical foul, the 89th of his career. This, combined with a very pretty three from LaVine with four seconds left to go in the half seemed to stem the oncoming storm, giving the Wolves a 65-54 lead at the half.

The third quarter is where things got ugly, however.

A new coach in Sacramento is nothing new. Having five different coaches in fives years has caused a lot of instability and is probably the primary reason in Rudy Gay calling the Kings “basketball hell” as he did the other day. But former Memphis Grizzlies head man Dave Joerger seems to have turned over a fresh leaf for the Kings.

The Kings had a great, yet somewhat surprising, defensive showing which helped them put together a 24-1 run in the third quarter. Cousins continued to draw fouls on Dieng, Aldrich and Towns. Rudy Gay was getting to the line and Matt Barnes made a pair of threes including one that gave the Kings a 72-71 lead, their first since it was 8-7.

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Interestingly enough, Muhammad, the Timberwolves leading bench scorer up to this point, did not make an appearance in the third quarter. The Wolves managed only 12 points in the frame and turned it over seven times, and the Kings led 85-77 at the end of three.

Things did not get much better to begin the fourth quarter, either. Muhammad and Towns fought for the same rebound which ended up rolling out of bounds. Ben McLemore turned this into an and-one opportunity, making the free throw. McLemore continued to heat up for the Kings.

At the 6:45 mark of the fourth quarter, with the Kings leading 96-87, Ricky Rubio slipped to the floor. He came up, obviously in extreme pain, holding his right elbow with his arm dangling at his side and was ultimately diagnosed with a sprained elbow with more tests to come on Sunday.

Shortly after this, Thibodeau began his newest experiment: Andrew Wiggins at point guard. And it worked, to a degree. Wiggins almost single-handedly kept the Wolves alive in this game by continually scoring and tying the game up on multiple occasions. The defense simply could not get a stop.

Dieng air-balled a three as the shot clock expired which eventually turned into Gay converted scoring two points. Towns was then blocked from behind by Matt Barnes on the ensuing possession, and then Ty Lawson hit a three with no one within five feet of him.

Wiggins missed one of his two free throws the next time down the floor, and the Kings led 105-101. But at this point, good ol’ Boogie Cousins appeared.

Dunn proceeded to miss both of those free throws, however, and 18 seconds later Towns grabbed an offensive layup and put it back for two.

On the fourth in-bounds play of the last 20 seconds of the game, Wiggins was able to tie Gay up and force a jump ball, which Dunn recovered. That meant that the Timberwolves had a final opportunity with the ball while down but just two points.

But Wiggins missed the potential game tying jumper and that was all she wrote, save for a Matt Barnes free throw with just 0.2 seconds remaining on the clock.

Star of the Night

DeMarcus Cousins: 29 points ( 9-16 FG, 11-14 FT), seven rebounds, four assists, three turnovers, six personal fouls and one thrown mouth guard

Despite a technical foul and a mini-tantrum after fouling out in the final minute, the Timberwolves simply had no answer for DeMarcus Cousins. Karl-Anthony Towns could not slow him down and foul trouble to Gorgui Dieng didn’t help Minnesota’s cause, either.

Stat of the Night

The Wolves had four bench players play 13 minutes or less, with only Kris Dunn (20 minutes) eclipsing that mark and that was only due to Rubio’s injury. Thibodeau kept his rotation extremely short once again.

Also, the Wolves’ only player with more than six rebounds was Dieng, who pulled down 13 boards against the Kings.

Notable Timberwolves Lines

  • Andrew Wiggins: 29 points (10-19 FG, 1-4 3PT, 8-11 FT), one rebound, one block, three turnovers
  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 15 points (7-13 FG, 1-3 3P, 0-2 FT) 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, one block
  • Gorgui Dieng: 14 points (5-9 FG, 0-1 3P, 4-4 FT), 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks
  • Zach LaVine: 21 points (7-14 FG, 3-7 3P, 4-4 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists

After a solid line on opening night in Memphis, Andrew Wiggins put up box score numbers reminiscent of the past couple of years with just a single rebound and zero assists.

Next: Simulating the Timberwolves' 2016-17 Season On NBA 2k17

Who’s Next?

In an odd early season scheduling twist, the Wolves have another pair of off days in a row. The home opener is on deck, but not until Tuesday night, when Minnesota will host the Memphis Grizzlies at Target Center.