Entering Tuesday’s matchup in Sacramento, the Minnesota Timberwolves hoped to end a five-game skid on the second to last game of their West Coast road trip. With the help of Kevin Love and his 23 point, 24 rebound performance, the Timberpups did just that defeating the Kings by a score of 97-89.
Feeding off of Love’s energy and physicality in the paint, the rest of the Wolves starting frontcourt – Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic – helped to brutalize a less than dominant Sacramento frontcourt. Kirilenko enjoyed his best performance in some time after enduring a slight shooting slump over the past three games. AK-47 finished the night with 14 points (5-12 FG), 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks in 41 minutes of action. Kirilenko played tremendous wing defense while creating scoring opportunities from his passing and lane penetration. To put it simply, AK was a perfect complement to both Love and Pek last night.
Pekovic was a game-high +10 on the floor and finished with 16 points (6-13 FG), 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 block in 36 minutes. Pek ran the floor very well in transition and demonstrated his soft hands when catching and scoring quick passes into the post. The frontcourt defense brought by the Kings was very subject, and Pek was able to effectively maneuver past Demarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson fairly easily. Overall, nice game for Nikola.
A much improved game for the Timberwolves starting backcourt, as they too enjoyed softer defense than they had previously been experiencing this season. In 30 minutes of play, Luke Ridnour scored 18 points (8-13 FG) and tallied 5 assists while only turning the ball over twice. Ridnour was a veteran amongst boys when faced up against an immature Kings backcourt, and used his intelligence to effectively dissect the opposing defense while properly identifying when to score one-on-one. Alongside Ridnour in the starting backcourt was Malcolm Lee yet again, who nailed two of his three three-point attempts on his way to 10 points (4-6 FG) in 21 minutes.
Backing up Ridnour and Lee were JJ Barea and Alexey Shved, who were both very effective against an inferior Sacramento second unit. Shved converted 2 of his 5 three-point attempts while also grabbing 2 steals. Barea played a relatively brief 18 minutes but dished out 6 assists while grabbing 4 boards, turning the ball over once.
Derrick Williams received another DNP-CD, and the mystery regarding his future with the club continues to grow. Who could have predicted that the former number-two draft choice could have fallen so far out of favor with head coach Rick Adelman that he would virtually not be receiving any playing time this season. Surely, his trade value has taken a definite hit with the recent events.
As a team, the Pups outrebounded the Kings by a tally of 51-36 led by the frontcourt trio of Love-Pekovic-Kirilenko. Love was the key to the Timberwolves victory, as he was simply relentless in his pursuit of rebounds on the offensive and defensive ends. K-Love went without his protective black glove on his shooting hand, and his 23 points and 24 rebounds were the key to stopping a sensational performance by Tyreke Evans on the other end.
The Pups conclude their road trip in Los Angeles tonight as they face off against the Clippers at 9:30PM CT. Last but not least, here are my three stars of the game (of which I predicted perfectly in the preview):
- Kevin Love
- Andrei Kirilenko
- Tyreke Evans