Timberwolves-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 20, 2013
While an offensive surge has made the Sacramento Kings competitive lately, their defense keyed perhaps their best win of the season their last time out. The Kings will try to carry their momentum to Thursday night when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves, who haven't won on the road in more than five weeks. Sacramento (24-44) has averaged 113.1 points - 13.4 above its season mark - while going 5-6 in its last 11 contests. The Kings lost three of those games by seven points or less, and another was a 141-129 double-overtime defeat at NBA-leading Miami on Feb. 26. They continued their recent tear Tuesday, shooting 50.7 percent from the field and 14 for 28 from 3-point range in a stunning 116-101 home victory over the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers. Marcus Thornton made 6 of 10 from 3-point range and finished with a team-high 25 points off the bench. Fellow reserve Toney Douglas added 19 for the Kings, who have scored 115.8 per game while winning six of nine at home. Sacramento also came up big defensively, holding the high-scoring Clippers to five field goals and outscoring them 38-18 in the fourth quarter. "That looked like the Kings at the beginning of the year," said center DeMarcus Cousins, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds after missing two games with a thigh injury. "We definitely locked it down on D." Sacramento appears poised to keep the positive vibes going as it plays a Minnesota team that has lost eight straight and 16 of 17 on the road after falling 92-77 to Memphis on Monday in the opener of a three-game trip. The Timberwolves (23-42), however, seek their third straight win over the Kings after claiming a 92-80 home victory Nov. 2 and winning 97-89 at Sacramento on Nov. 27. While Minnesota outrebounded the Kings 104-79 in the two meetings, it ranks second to last in the NBA with a minus-7.8 rebounding differential this month. Alexey Shved finished with 12 points Monday, and Mickael Gelabale and J.J. Barea scored 11 apiece as no Timberwolves starter reached double figures. Ricky Rubio left the game with a groin strain after coming down awkwardly in the third quarter, but he's expected to play Thursday. Rubio had averaged 18.0 points, 8.8 assists and 7.0 rebounds in his previous four games. "He said he could have played (in the fourth quarter), but I wasn't going to put him back in there," coach Rick Adelman said. "It wasn't worth it." Minnesota also could receive a boost if swingman Chase Budinger can play for the first time since tearing the meniscus in his left knee in November. Budinger averaged 11.8 points in six games before getting hurt. Adelman's club will try to get back on track offensively after matching a season-low point total and shooting a season-worst 33.7 percent against the defensive-minded Grizzlies. The Timberwolves, who fell to 7-26 on the road, were also outscored 50-28 in the paint. That could be an area of concern since the Kings rank near the top of the league with an average of 46.4 points in the paint this month. Sacramento point guard Isaiah Thomas, who had a team-high 20 points in the first meeting, has scored 16.8 per game and hit 10 of 21 from 3-point range in his last four versus Minnesota. The Kings had won six of seven at home in this series by an average of 10.9 points before the Timberwolves' victory in November.
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