Close, but no cigar.
This was the story once again for the Minnesota Timberwolves when they fell just short to the Kings Thursday night. The New Years Day game was a big one for rookie Andrew Wiggins, who led the team with 27 points, nine rebounds and four steals. Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad each added 15 points in the effort. On the other end, Rudy Gay and Darren Collison scored 21 points apiece for the Kings.
Minnesota delivered an impressive first quarter, shooting 57 percent from the field and grabbing 29 points. Unfortunately for the Wolves, though, Sacramento came out even stronger. Gay led the way with 10 points as the Kings landed 77.8 percent of their shots and entered the second quarter with 37 points.
Despite falling behind early on, the Wolves worked their way back with a lot of help from Wiggins. The youngster tallied 15 points in the second quarter alone, including one bucket from behind the three-point line.
“[Wiggins has] been playing really well,” Saunders said.
Just after halftime, Minnesota tied the score at 66-66. It seemed that the Wolves might be gaining momentum, but the excitement was short lived as the Kings went on an 11-0 run.
One of the weakest spots for the Timberwolves proved to be the free-throw line. The team missed some crucial opportunities late in the game, landing only 16 of its 22 attempts from the charity stripe.
Saunders knew the team needed a spark in the second half, and he implemented newly acquired guard Troy Daniels. Daniels added 11 points over 12 minutes of play time, including three baskets from behind the arc. The former Houston Rocket seems to be finding his groove with a new team, and Wolves fans hope he will be another piece to the puzzle.
“I know my job is to shoot the ball,” Daniels said postgame. “If I’m open, just shoot it. I’m just trying to help the team any way I can.”
If the Wolves hope to increase their win totals, the team needs more consistency from its starting five. Thaddeus Young had a quieter night than usual with just nine points, and rookie Zach LaVine finished with a mere six points and three assists.
Sacramento did almost everything right on the evening; each one of its starters scored in double-digit points, and the squad shot 54.1 percent from the field.
“We’ve been so close,” head coach Flip Saunders said. “We just can’t seem to get over the hump.”
It seems that a lot of good things have been happening in games over the past few weeks—significant developments for Wiggins and Muhammad and the addition of Daniels—but so far the young team just can’t get the wins to show for it.
Thursday night’s loss dropped the Wolves to 5-26 on the season. They will remain at home for the week to face Utah Saturday night and Denver on Monday.