Programming note: Kings-Pelicans coverage starts Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. with Kings Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California (territory restrictions apply) Channel locations
The Kings defeated the Timberwolves, a team missing four starters, 113-101 on the first game of a four-game road trip after a sluggish first half on Saturday night.
“Was not happy with the way we played at all,” Kings coach Michael Malone told reporters after the game. “We were very tentative against the zone. We were sloppy and I didn’t think we were ready to play.”
After a first half that included anemic shooting from downtown - 2-for-12 on 3-pointers and 10 turnovers that resulted in 13 points for Minnesota, Sacramento trailed 52-48 at the half.
The turning point, however, was the third quarter as one King in particular heeded a halftime message.
“Coach told me just go out there and be aggressive and keep shooting the ball,” said Ben McLemore told CSN California after the game.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Cousins powers Kings past T'Wolves 113-101]
McLemore delivered 13 points in the third quarter as the Kings turned a four-point halftime deficit into a 84-77 advantage heading into the final stanza – a lead Sacramento never relinquished.
“Ben played a great all around game,” said Darren Collison told reporters after the game. “It wasn’t just offense. It was defense too… When he’s open we have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to make the shot.”
McLemore was matched up with rookie Andrew Wiggins, another former Kansas Jayhawk, who scored 29 points. Notwithstanding the energy necessary to defend McLemore’s stat line was solid – 22 points and nine rebounds.
“To our guys credit, we came out and played with a great sense of urgency as we outscored them 36-25 in the third quarter and we did it with defense,” said Malone. “When we got defense back into the game that negated their zone because they couldn’t set up their zone up all game.”
DeMarcus Cousins was huge yet again, securing his sixth consecutive double double and 10th of the season, with 31 points and 18 rebounds.
“Everyone’s playing well with one another,” said Collison, who scored 19 points to go along with seven assists, “and that’s huge for us.”
Rudy Gay was below his average of 22 points per night, scoring only 14 points, but he had six assists and six rebounds.
“Rudy used to be considered just a scorer,” said Malone. “Now he’s showing people he’s a versatile player. He can score. He can rebound and he can facilitate.”
Sacramento’s resilient third quarter outscoring Minnesota 36-25 led by Ben McLemore’s 13 points on 5-for-6 from the floor including 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
McLemore finished with 22 points and nine rebounds on the night providing much needed production from the two-guard spot for Sacramento.
The Kings sluggish first half start –10 turnovers leading to 13 points for the Timberwolves while shooting 2-for-12 from 3-point range.
The Kings demonstrated resilience on the road after a poor first half to secure the win, which is a sign of a team turning the corner - winning when things aren’t perfect.
However, bouncing back was possible against a Timberwolves team without four starters. It may not be so easy down the road.
“We’ll take the win,” said Malone, “but we all know we cannot play this way against the remaining teams on this trip.”