Programming note: Kings-Timberwolves coverage starts Saturday at 4:30 p.m. with Kings Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California (territory restrictions apply) Channel locations
The Kings (7-5) visit the Timberwolves (3-8) Saturday for the first of a four game road trip after a 103-88 home win versus the Bulls on Thursday.
Sacramento faces a Minnesota team in the second game of back-to-backs as the Timberwolves lost Friday night 121-92 to the Spurs.
Minnesota has lost six of their last seven games and once again will be without four starters – G Kevin Martin (fractured right wrist), C Nikola Pekovic (sprained right wrist), G Ricky Rubio (sprained left ankle), and F Thaddeus Young (personal reasons) are all out.
[RELATED: Kings' Cousins, Gay, Thompson probable vs. T'Wolves]
The Kings have faced opponents missing key players with mixed results.
Sacramento’s win on Thursday came against the Bulls who were without Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol due to injury. The Kings' 101-93 loss at Oklahoma City back on November 9th was versus a Thunder squad decimated by injuries including Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
For the Kings, it continues to be much more about their performance than the opposition and their performance on Thursday versus Chicago was solid.
The Kings locked down the Bulls allowing only 88 points, 23 assists on 38 field goals and committed only 13 turnovers.
While Minnesota on paper looks easy in comparison to the next stops on the road trip – New Orleans, Houston and San Antonio - dropping one at the Target Center would be a step back in the Kings.
Eliminating defensive lapses, offensive stagnation and turnovers and playing as close to 48 minutes as possible remain challenges for Sacramento.
The Kings need to maintain the sentiment post game versus Chicago on the road that is worthy of reiterating.
“When we defend, when we share and we value the ball, then we’re a pretty tough team to beat,” said Kings coach Michael Malone.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: DeMarcus Cousin vs. Gorgui Dieng. Cousins averaged 25.3 points and 14.3 rebounds in three games against the Timberwolves last season and recorded double-doubles in nine of twelve games.
With Pekovic out, the Kings offense should start with going after Dieng with multiple touches for Cousins.
KEYS TO VICTORY: 1. Defense first – the Kings are 4-1 when holding opponents under 100 points and in their five losses have allowed 103.8 points per game.
2. Trust on offense – Minnesota is next to last in the NBA allowing 110 points per game. No need to force here. Patience will be rewarded with scoring opportunities.
3. Early to Cousins – Early on to establish tempo Sacramento must get Cousins multiple touches, field goal attempts and likely trips to the free throw line.
INJURY UPDATE: Sacramento – F Rudy Gay (right Achilles tendinitis), C DeMarcus Cousins (left hip flexor tightness) and PF Jason Thompson (left quadriceps tendinitis) are probable.
Minnesota – G Kevin Martin (fractured right wrist), C Nikola Pekovic (sprained right wrist), G Ricky Rubio (sprained left ankle), C Ronny Turiaf (right hip soreness) and F Thaddeus Young (personal reasons) are out.
SERIES HISTORY: Saturday represents the first of three meetings this season between the Kings and Timberwolves.
The teams split last season’s four game series and the average margin of victory was 4.75 points.
Minnesota leads the overall series versus Sacramento 49-47.