Kings come on strong late to beat Timberwolves 121-110
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Kings coach Dave Joerger didn’t like most of what he saw from his team in the first half against Minnesota.
The second half was an entirely different story and had Joerger beaming afterward, even though Sacramento nearly blew a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
Willie Cauley-Stein had 25 points, Nemanja Bjelica scored eight in a row during a big run late in the third and the Kings beat the slumping Timberwolves 121-110 on Friday night to spoil a huge game for Karl-Anthony Towns.
“I didn’t think we played very well in the first half and still had a two-point lead,” Joerger said. “We’re growing. This is a very good win for us. I think you saw maybe we wore them down a little bit in the second half.”
Coming off back-to-back losses to East powers Milwaukee and Toronto, the Kings led by 15 early in the fourth but had to hold off a late surge by Minnesota to end a three-game losing streak to the Timberwolves.
Sacramento’s high-tempo offense was pivotal on both ends, as Minnesota eventually got tired in the second half.
“We just keep running,” De’Aaron Fox said. “Even if they score, we’re not worried about that. We’re getting the ball up and down the court.”
Fox had 16 points and 10 assists for Sacramento. Iman Shumpert scored 17 and Bjelica finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Towns had a season-high 39 points and 19 rebounds on a night when Minnesota’s inconsistent offense sputtered.
“To win you have to play with a certain intensity level and we’re not playing well right now,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s not any one particular person. It’s not any one particular thing. It’s all things. Hustle can make up for a lot and so that’s what we have to get back to.”
The Timberwolves trailed by 14 midway through the fourth before Derrick Rose made consecutive 3-pointers to start a 12-0 run. Minnesota had a chance to tie the game but Jimmy Butler missed two free throws with 3:19 left.
Sacramento took advantage of a pair of turnovers and scored the next seven points to pull away.
“We have to do a better job closing,” Sacramento’s Buddy Hield said. “I messed up on a ball screen at the top of the key. It’s on us to lock in mentally and focus.”
Rose had 21 points, five assists and six rebounds. Butler was a game-time decision but played 41 minutes and had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
The Timberwolves are 0-8 on the road.
“We just didn’t play transitional defense,” Towns said. “That’s what we need to do. That’s why we get hit with another ‘L’ on this trip and haven’t found a way to win.”
Sacramento missed 11 of its first 14 shots and fell behind by 12 early in the first quarter. Cauley-Stein helped rally the Kings in the second, scoring eight points as Sacramento took a 63-61 halftime lead.
Towns made his first five shots and was 7 of 9 in the first quarter as Minnesota jumped out to a 12-point lead. He cooled off a bit in the second but made two 3s and had 29 points and eight rebounds by halftime.
The first half ended on a strange note when the Kings were called for two fouls with 0.6 seconds left, both coming as Minnesota tried to inbound the ball. The Timberwolves made one of the two ensuing free throws and eventually got the ball in, but Taj Gibson missed a 15-footer at the buzzer.
Timberwolves: Towns had nine offensive rebounds. . Two days after setting a franchise record with 20 3-pointers, the Timberwolves failed to find their stroke beyond the arc, going 7 for 25. ... Andrew Wiggins (bruised right quad), Jeff Teague (bruised left knee) and Justin Patton (right foot) were held out.
Kings: Kosta Koufos made a 19-foot jumper at the buzzer to end the first quarter. ... Bogdan Bogdanovic, who underwent a pair of left knee procedures in the offseason, was rested two days after making his season debut.
Timberwolves: Host the Nets on Monday.
Kings: Host the Lakers on Saturday.