(Note from John: While this is under my name, Lindsey Young carried the load on this recap. Due to some computer issues, I filled in the blanks for Lindsey. You can thank her for this recap!)
On Thursday afternoon, the Timberwolves faced the Kings in the Wolves’ first game of the 2014 NBA Summer League tournament. Coming in as the #24 seed, the Wolves were definitely the underdogs against the #8 seed Sacramento. The Wolves put up a valiant effort, but in the end they fell short in the final score. Shabazz Muhammad led Minnesota with 24 points, while Gorgui Dieng had an impressive 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Minnesota’s starting lineup featured the following: Zach LaVine, Kyrylo Fesenko, Dieng, Shabazz and Brady Heslip. The game opened on a missed alley-oop by Ben McLemore followed by a nice dish by Muhammad to LaVine for the bucket. McLemore redeemed himself on the following play, though, hitting a long three.
The Wolves second-year forward/center (Dieng) played well from tipoff, grabbing four points and four rebounds over seven minutes in the first quarter, including a couple powerful slam dunks. He looked strong defensively as well, taking a charge early in the game to help Minny hang onto momentum.
Offensively, McLemore dominated the game. He tallied nine points in the first quarter alone, and the guard finished with an impressive 22 points. He led his team to an impressive 58.8 percent from the floor during the first half, to Minnesota’s 45.9 percent. Marshon Brooks and Quincy Acy also looked good, tallying 19 and 15 points respectively for the Kings.
Sacramento took a 22-16 lead near the end of the first quarter. Minnesota native Matt Janning landed a three-point shot to put the Wolves back into it, but the Kings still pulled away to end the quarter 28-21. Glenn Robinson III made a couple buckets to help the team battle back, and the Wolves moved the ball fairly well. Sacramento kept pulling out of reach though, and Minny entered halftime trailing 47-55.
Minnesota started the second half with possession and immediately grabbed two points, but the Kings answered with four of their own, extending their lead to 10 and prompting a quick Wolves timeout.
The third quarter was a scrappy one, and at one point Dieng found himself knocked to the ground with an elbow to the forehead. Minnesota gained the upper hand to finish up the period, though, going on an 8-2 run to face the fourth quarter down by just four.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, Sacramento pulled away in the 4th quarter, outscoring the Wolves 26-17 to advance in the Las Vegas Summer League tournament, with a final score of 100-86. The final score isn’t necessarily indicative of how well the Wolves looked again on Thursday, following up Wednesday’s win to move into the second round of the tournament.
As far as the newbies on the floor, Lavine and Heslip looked strong. LaVine shows significant potential for the Wolves, his speed and athleticism already impressive throughout this summer league period, despite struggling from long range on Thursday (0-4 on 3PT attempts). It will be interesting to see how he works into the lineup with Ricky Rubio during the regular season.
The Timberwolves played with a tighter rotation than earlier in the week, giving their starters substantial time on the hardwood. Minnesota performed solid offensively, but it failed to make the necessary stops against Sacramento.
Prior to the game, it was reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers revisited the idea of adding No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins to a trade bargain for Wolves’ forward Kevin Love. Owner Glen Taylor and head coach Flip Saunders were at the game in Vegas, so it will be interesting to see if any major transactions happen tonight.