Two teams that found positives despite long losing streaks look for more of the same Monday night when the Sacramento Kings visit the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Kings coach Luke Walton shook things up with a news-making lineup change Saturday in Chicago, and the move helped produce a 98-81 win that ended a six-game skid.
The move: Bringing leading scorer Buddy Hield off the bench.
“As a competitor, you’ve got to look at it because you want to figure out what’s the reason of that,” Hield admitted to reporters before responding well, contributing 21 points and eight rebounds to the win in 23 minutes. “You never get a straight cut-clear answer, but as a player, as a professional, you’ve got to go out there, lock in, and whatever the coach wants you to do, you’ve got to go do it.”
For one day, anyway, Walton liked what he saw.
“We don’t win that game tonight without Buddy,” he assured the media afterward.
Hield had 17 points when Sacramento last saw the Timberwolves on Dec. 26, a contest that had to qualify as a disaster for the host Kings.
In a game that Minnesota wound up winning 105-104 in double overtime, the Kings lost De’Aaron Fox in the second minute to back spasms, then saw Marvin Bagley III suffer a sprained left foot later on.
Bagley still isn’t over the injury. He missed the following eight games, then returned to play four before aggravating the problem and sitting out the past two. He is unlikely to play in the finale of Sacramento’s five-game trip Monday.
The Timberwolves prevailed in the earlier meeting despite going without Karl-Anthony Towns, who was nursing a sprained left knee.
He has returned with a vengeance, averaging 29.0 points in six games, including going for 37, 30 and 40 in his past three.
The Timberwolves have lost all six — and three more before that — and find themselves searching for more production from their supporting cast for Towns and guard Andrew Wiggins.
“This team is so used to (Towns) and Wigs doing all the work that when it doesn’t happen, we just stand around,” Shabazz Napier observed to reporters last week. “That’s how it is. We just gotta find ways to help them guys out. We all, the role players, have to figure out: How do we help them out better?”
Napier figured it out for himself in Saturday’s 113-104 home loss to Oklahoma City, recording a first-ever triple-double with 10 points and career-highs in rebounds with 10 and assists with 13.
It wasn’t enough to prevent a sixth straight home loss.
The Timberwolves had lost 11 straight before they won at Sacramento, without Towns, last month.
–Field Level Media