Blue Christmas: Timberwolves send Kings into holidays with loss

Dec 23, 2023, 9:32 PM | Updated: 9:40 pm

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Sacramento Kings continue to struggle on the second night of back-to-backs.

On the heels of an impressive win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday, the Kings struggled on both ends of the floor during a 110-98 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden 1 Center on Saturday night.

While Sacramento (17-11) dropped a tough one to Minnesota, they posted a 4-2 record during their six-game homestand and will enter a brief two-day Christmas break in a top-five spot in the Western Conference standings.

The Kings will head to Portland on Tuesday to begin a three-game road trip before returning home for a four-game homestand.

Timberwolves vs. Kings Takeaways

Points in the Pain-t

Minnesota hurt the Kings in the paint on Saturday night, especially during the first half.

The Timberwolves entered play ranked 16th in the NBA when it comes to scoring in the paint (50.4), but they quickly made it clear that they would top that number against Sacramento’s weak interior defense.

Minnesota poured in 44 points in the paint during the first half as the Kings had no answer for Rudy Gobert, Anthony Edwards, and the rest of a T-Wolves offense that went 22-for-30 (73%) inside the key during the first 24 minutes of play.

Gobert was a force inside for Minnesota, as the veteran center racked up a double-double before the end of the second quarter while acting as an anchor in the post. Gobert, who is known for his shot-blocking ability rather than his offense, scored 15 points (seven-of-nine shooting) and grabbed ten boards over 17 first-half minutes.

“In the first half, 44 of their 59 points were in the paint,” Kings guard De’Aaron Fox said of the T-Wolves’ attack inside the paint. “I think that’s where we had trouble tonight.”

The Timberwolves finished the night scoring 66 points in the paint, with 28 points also coming on the break (on 12-of-16 shooting).

While Sacramento did a decent job of holding Minnesota’s three-point shooters in check (30%), but the paint was the main takeaway in this one as the Kings had no answer for Edwards (34 points) and Gobert (21 points).

No Offense, Big Problem

Aside from De’Aaron Fox’s 20 first-half points, the Kings’ offense could not find a rhythm during the first two quarters as they shot 36 percent from the field and 17 percent from three-point range.

If Sacramento were to erase a 12-point halftime deficit, they would need to get their offense going–especially from beyond the arc–against a T-Wolves defense that entered play as the NBA’s leader in defensive rating and opponent points per game (106.9).

Minnesota stretched its lead to 20 during the third quarter while the Kings struggled to generate offense, but a late 11-3 run trimmed the deficit to 11 points heading into the fourth quarter.

While a sold-out crowd at Golden 1 Center was hyped up following Sacramento’s run to make things interesting, the T-Wolves proved why they currently hold the best record in the NBA by mounting a quick 9-2 run to take a 90-72 lead with 9:28 remaining, a deficit that the Kings would be unable to overcome.

Keegan Murray (10 of his 20 points in the fourth) and Trey Lyles (nine points in the fourth) did all that he could late to make things interesting as the second-year forward helped chip Minnesota’s lead to five points with two minutes remaining, but too much damage was done early as the Sacramento couldn’t get over the hump in crunch time.

As bad as the interior defense was on Saturday, a rough showing on the offensive end didn’t help the Kings in this one, either.

Sacramento finished the night having shot 43 percent from the field and eight-of-33 (24%) from three-point land. The T-Wolves took De’Aaron Fox out of the game late, as Murray, Lyles, and Harrison Barnes carried the scoring load in crunch time.

“They have length, they’re long and athletic,” Fox said of Minnesota’s pesky defense postgame. “Having Rudy back there makes you think twice about getting to the rim. They’re very active.”

Fox finished the night with a team-high 27 points on 10-of-23 shooting over 39 minutes, while Murray scored 20 on eight-of-16 from the field to go along with seven rebounds–his fourth time scoring 20+ over the past five games.

Minnesota is the exact type of team that gives the Kings headaches. Length, shot-blockers, athleticism. Same with Houston and New Orleans, who hold a combined record of 5-0 against Sacramento this year.

It’s a long season, but one thing is clear:

The Kings have an issue with the second night of back-to-backs and teams that roster a bevy of athletic wings.


  • Domantas Sabonis posted his 11th-straight double-double and second-straight triple-double during the loss: 17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists. Sabonis is now tied for second in the NBA in double-doubles (24) and triple-doubles (five).
  • Saturday’s loss marks just the second time in Keegan Murray’s career that he has scored 20 points in a loss (18-2).

Injury Report

Malik Monk (right foot soreness) was ruled out due to right foot soreness and is considered day-to-day.

Alex Len (right high ankle sprain) is closing in on a return to action. The center was ruled out for a 19th-straight game on Saturday but has fully participated in two straight practices.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Happy Holidays, Sacramento!

The Kings will have two days to enjoy the holidays and prepare for a three-game road trip that will begin on Tuesday night in Portland.

On November 8th, Sacramento beat the Trail Blazers 121-118 in overtime with De’Aaron Fox (ankle) sidelined. Domantas Sabonis scored 27 points to lead the way, while Malik Monk added 23 points off the bench.

YouTube video

Be sure to tune in to Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Blazers coverage, beginning at 5:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 7:00 PM PST tip-off from the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.

Upcoming Schedule

  • Tuesday, December 26th – Sacramento Kings @ Portland Trail Blazers – @ 7:00 PM PST
  • Friday, December 29th – Sacramento Kings @ Atlanta Hawks – 4:30 PM PST
  • Sunday, December 31st – Sacramento Kings @ Memphis Grizzlies – 5:00 PM PST
  • Tuesday, January 2nd – Sacramento Kings vs. Charlotte Hornets – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, January 3rd – Sacramento Kings vs. Orlando Magic – 7:00 PM PST

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