Two teams coming off dramatic and draining wins 24 hours earlier will be tested when the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings square off Saturday night in the California capital.
Minnesota got a key late 3-pointer from Mike Conley and a 22-point, 14-rebound double-double from Rudy Gobert in a 110-102 road triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
At the same time about 400 miles to the north, the host Kings stunned the other Los Angeles team — the Clippers — when Domantas Sabonis turned a foul on the offensive boards into two free throws with seven seconds remaining for a 128-127 victory.
The Timberwolves earned their second straight win on a four-game California swing during which they have played or will play only playoff contenders. They swept the Los Angeles teams after beginning the journey with a 109-104 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Meanwhile, the Kings are riding a five-game winning streak. They sit in third place in the Western Conference, three games ahead of the Phoenix Suns, who recently acquired Kevin Durant, and four games up on the defending champion Warriors, who also have won five in a row.
Little separated the Timberwolves and Kings during two earlier meetings in Minneapolis, which were scheduled as part of a same-site mini-series. The hosts used 34 points from Anthony Edwards as a springboard to a 117-110 win in the set opener on Jan. 28 before De’Aaron Fox went for 32 points in a 118-111 Kings overtime victory two days later.
The clubs will meet again in Sacramento on March 27.
The Kings will be seeing the Timberwolves with Conley for the first time this season. The veteran point guard was a thorn in Sacramento’s side in two earlier meetings while with the Utah Jazz, averaging 17.5 points and 7.5 assists.
Conley has been reunited with former Jazz teammate Gobert, who has averaged 18.6 points and 12.8 rebounds in his past five games.
Gobert, who has shot 39-for-56 (69.6 percent) in those games, knows it’s no coincidence his numbers have skyrocketed since Conley joined the team.
“I do a lot of things to impact winning, but it takes time for guys around me to figure out that,” he said. “And it takes time for me to figure out the guys around me, too.”
The Kings, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2006, moved a step closer with the Friday win. They climbed within one game of the second-place Memphis Grizzlies, who lost 113-97 to the first-place Denver Nuggets on Friday.
Sacramento reaped a reward for its continued success this season when Mike Brown was named Western Coach of the Month for February.
As he has said about his team all year, Brown insisted the honor was a team effort.
“It really is a testament to the guys that are on my staff right now,” he said, “and obviously the players, too. You’ve got to have players to win in this league. But this is the best staff I’ve ever had. They make my job extremely, extremely easy. And I can literally turn my back and they’re going to handle it and make things right. It makes opportunities to win accolades like this a lot easier.”
–Field Level Media