SACRAMENTO KINGS

Surging Kings face tall task in meeting with Timberwolves

Dec 23, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: 12:05 pm

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: Anthony Edwards #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves is guarded by M...

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Two teams on the rise will square off for the second time this season when the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves visit the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night.

The Kings recorded a 124-111 victory in Minneapolis on Nov. 24 in the first battle between perennially losing teams that are enjoying a resurgence.

Minnesota is tied with the Boston Celtics for the league’s best record at 21-6. The Timberwolves are shooting for their third straight postseason berth after failing to make the field in 16 of the 17 previous campaigns.

Sacramento, which is off to a 17-10 start, missed the playoffs in 16 consecutive seasons before ending the ugly drought last season.

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The Kings enter this encounter with victories in nine of their past 13 games. Minnesota is on an even hotter run with 20 wins in its past 24 contests.

The Timberwolves are coming off a 118-111 home win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.

They sustained a blow when standout center Karl-Anthony Towns injured his left knee with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter and exited the contest. Towns has been ruled out of Saturday’s game.

Without Towns, veteran Mike Conley will be one of the more pivotal Timberwolves on Saturday when he battles Sacramento star point guard De’Aaron Fox. Nobody needs to remind Conley that he had just six points in last month’s game while Fox scored 36.

Conley had 16 points and eight assists against the Lakers. He also had two steals.

“I’ve done that my whole life,” the 36-year-old Conley said. “That’s a play that I’ve been able to make, getting back on defense and stripping guys using my hands and quickness. I’ve still got it.”

Fox recorded 23 points, seven assists six rebounds and three steals for the Kings on Friday when they easily handled the visiting Phoenix Suns 120-105. He scored at least 25 points in 11 of the 12 previous games before falling short Friday.

Domantas Sabonis also stood out by recording 28 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds. He has four triple-doubles this season and 36 in his career.

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“To highlight it when he does it from time to time is big, and it’s up to all of us to highlight it because it’s hard,” Sacramento coach Mike Brown said of Sabonis’ propensity to record triple-doubles. “It’s almost impossible to be a center and get a triple-double. There’s only a couple guys out there. Domas is one of them and (Nikola) Jokic might be the other one.”

Sacramento led by as many as 29 points while easily sidestepping a team featuring stars Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. The Kings opened the third quarter by making their first 11 field-goal attempts.

“We just stayed aggressive,” said forward Keegan Murray, who added 21 points. “We were up by 11 at the half and we just wanted to keep our foot on the gas in the third quarter and keep the pace up. I feel like we did a good job of that.”

Murray has topped 20 points in three of the past four games, including a career-best night in a 143-131 home win over the Washington Wizards when he established career highs of 47 points and 12 3-point baskets.

Murray missed the first game against the Timberwolves due to a back injury.

Anthony Edwards stood out for Minnesota in last month’s contest with 35 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Towns had 27 points and 11 rebounds.

Against the Lakers, Edwards led the Timberwolves with 27 points. Towns had 21 before being injured while Rudy Gobert had 15 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.

–Field Level Media

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