The Sacramento Kings hit the road for the first of three games away from Golden 1 Center leading up to the All-Star break. They’ll begin the trip Sunday in frozen Minnesota against the high-flying Timberwolves.
After a busy trade deadline, the Kings hit the road short-handed. Newcomer Iman Shumpert is nursing a plantar fasciitis injury and Bruno Caboclo has yet to practice with the team. Two-way players JaKarr Sampson and Jack Cooley are with the team and ready to play.
The T-Wolves have lost two straight, but by a combined three points. They are one of the best up and coming teams in the league, buoyed by All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, as well as high-end talents in Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague.
Timberwolves by 13
WHERE THEY STAND
Kings: 17-37 fifth in the Pacific
T-Wolves: 34-24 first in the Northwest
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Bogdan Bogdanovic vs. Jimmy Butler -- Bogdanovic loves a good challenge and he’ll get one in All-Star Jimmy Butler. The Kings rookie guard is growing into his role as a starter alongside De’Aaron Fox and his numbers are steadily climbing across the board. In his first season with the T-Wolves, Butler is thriving, posting 22.6 points, 5.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game. He’s one of the best two-way players in the league.
Kings: SF Iman Shumpert (plantar fasciitis) out, PF Skal Labissiere (shoulder strain) out until after the All-Star break, PG Frank Mason (plantar fascia tear right heel) out until after the All-Star break, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out for the season.
T-Wolves: C Justin Patton (foot) day-to-day.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Finish Strong -- The All-Star break is just four days away. Sacramento needs to continue to grow as a team and not take any game lightly. They’ll face a tough stretch, but each game is a learning experience.
Consistent Lineups -- Dave Joerger has started the same line four straight games. Fox and Bogdanovic are getting a chance to mesh as a starting backcourt. Justin Jackson is earning playing at the three and Willie Cauley-Stein and Zach Randolph are developing chemistry on the front line. The second unit is short-handed, but veterans Vince Carter, Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos are doing a solid job holding down the fort with second-year man, Buddy Hield.
T-Wolves First Unit -- Not only do the T-Wolves hit you with a stellar first group, they play them all heavy minutes. All five starters average 33 minutes or more, leaving very little time for the bench group. There is no time to take a break against a team like Minny.
Sacramento won the season-series 3-1 last season, but the Timberwolves lead 1-0 this year after running over the Kings for a 119-96 win on Dec. 14. Minnesota holds a slight lead in the all-time series 55-53.