In a Western Conference showdown, the Minnesota Timberwolves will be hosting the Sacramento Kings. What will be three things to watch?
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the 2018-19 NBA season is the Sacramento Kings being a playoff contender. Heading into tonight’s matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento is three games above .500 and one game out of the eighth seed.
Minnesota finds itself three games under .500 and four games out of the eighth seed, falling further and further behind with each loss.
Any game the Wolves have against the Clippers, Lakers, and Kings — the three teams keeping them from making the playoffs — matter from here on out.
What could make the difference in this one?
1. Containing D’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield
Part of the reason that Sacramento has been so good this season is that D’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield decided to become awesome at the same time. Hield has taken a 7.2-point-per-game jump from last season, now sitting at 20.7 points per game. Shooting 44.7 percent from 3 on 7.6 attempts has been a large part of that.
Fox has been outstanding himself, averaging 17.2 points, 7.2 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game on 46.0/37.3/72.3 shooting splits.
Containing these two will be a huge key to Minnesota winning this one. Jeff Teague vs. Fox isn’t a great matchup should Ryan Saunders go that route, but Josh Okogie should be able to hold his own against either.
2. Defending the arc
When it comes to 3-point shooting, Sacramento has the edge in attempts and makes — standing at fourth in the league in percentage.
Outside of Hield, the Kings don’t possess a ton of firepower in the starting lineup. They do have capable shooters, however, that could hit on any given night. Minnesota needs to keep Sacramento in check from deep.
3. Marvin Bagley’s post presence
Marvin Bagley will get endless hate over his career for simply being chosen ahead of Luka Doncic. Bagley is coming into his own as a super-sub for the Kings, though, and could give the Wolves trouble.
In February, Bagley is averaging 17.6 points and 9.5 rebounds in 29.5 minutes per game.
With the possibility of Karl-Anthony Towns missing his third game in a row, Bagley might not have to see much of Taj Gibson — which will be a major advantage. If this is the case, the Wolves’ bench will have to be on its toes in help defense.