Kings

Kings look to stay hot vs. Love-less 'Wolves

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Kings look to stay hot vs. Love-less 'Wolves

It's been six seasons since the Minnesota Timberwolves had a winning record after 25 games. If they are to achieve that feat again, they must do it without their best player.

Looking to move above .500 with a third straight victory, the Timberwolves will be without suspended star Kevin Love on Tuesday night when they host the Sacramento Kings, who are riding a season-high three-game winning streak.

Sacramento (9-15) is coming off wins over the Trail Blazers, Warriors and Hornets the past three games; its highest margin of victory was eight.

NEWS: T'Wolves star Love suspended vs. Kings

Minnesota (12-12), likewise, is coming off consecutive victories over New Jersey and Houston, and is in position to surpass the .500 mark after 25 games for the first time since 2005-06. The Timberwolves have averaged 106.8 points while winning three of four overall.

"It does feel good to be .500 right now, but we still want to come out and keep this thing going in the right direction," Love said.

The Timberwolves must do that without Love, who will serve the first of his two-game suspension for stomping on Houston's Luis Scola as the Rocket forward was lying on the floor during Minnesota's 100-91 victory Saturday. Though Love (25.0 points, 13.7 rebounds per game) has grown frustrated because he believes game officials have failed to consistently police some overly physical play this season, he apologized to Scola both after the game and in a statement issued by the team on Monday.

"I don't want to be known for that," said Love, who admitted he needs to do a better job of handling his emotions. "I want to be known as a stand-up guy who happened to make a mistake with a size 19 shoe and just move on. So everybody knows there were no ill intentions there."

As Love tries to move on from this incident, his teammates must go forward without him. Love had 33 points and 11 rebounds in Minnesota's 99-86 home victory over Sacramento on Jan. 16. Luke Ridnour added 25 points with nine assists in that contest.

Ridnour scored 22 while backcourt mate Ricky Rubio added 13 with 11 assists against the Rockets.

"We're just keeping our composure this year," said Ridnour, averaging a career-high 12.3 points.

The Timberwolves also will have forward Michael Beasley and backup guard J.J. Barea on the floor for this contest after the pair missed last month's win over the Kings.

The Kings had one of its lowest scoring games of the season at Minnesota, but has averaged 103.0 points during its current three-game winning streak.

The Kings shot 47.4 percent while overcoming an 18-point deficit to win 100-92 at New Orleans on Monday. DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points with 19 rebounds and Tyreke Evans scored 11 of his 20 in the fourth quarter as Sacramento outscored the lowly Hornets 31-14 in the final period.

Sacramento snapped a four-game road skid to improve to 3-11 away from home.

"We're just playing great basketball right now," Evans said. "We want to keep that up and try to be in the race for the playoffs."

Cousins, who has totaled 49 points with 39 rebounds in the last two games, could benefit from Love's absence even though he's combined for 34 points and 18 boards in four career games versus Minnesota.

Evans has averaged 23.4 points and 7.2 assists in the last five games, but he was held to nine on 3-of-11 shooting while posting 10 assists and eight rebounds at Minnesota last month.

After loss to Nuggets, it's clear Kings need to fix problem on the glass

After loss to Nuggets, it's clear Kings need to fix problem on the glass

SACRAMENTO -- Light in the rear. It’s a term the Sacramento Kings coaching staff has used since the beginning of training camp to describe the bigs on the roster. On Monday night at Golden 1 Center, the team’s lack of strength inside was on full display as the Denver Nuggets crushed them on the glass.

“I think we’re 29th in the league for rebounding, so that’s a little bit of our makeup of how our team is made,” Dave Joerger said following the Kings’ 114-98 loss.

Joerger is close in his assessment, but off by a few spots. His roster ranks 26th in the league in rebounding overall and 28th on the defensive side of the ball. It’s become an achilles heel for a team that has a few glaring weaknesses.

“When Willie (Cauley-Stein) and Kosta (Koufos) aren’t in there to snag every rebound, we have to get in there and help Zach (Randolph) and help Skal (Labissiere),” veteran Garrett Temple said. “Skal’s a little undersized in terms of weight and Z-Bo will put his body on people, but some people might be able to out jump him.”

On a normal night, Temple is right. Randolph and Labissiere struggle to put up big numbers on the glass. But against the Nuggets, it was Koufos and Cauley-Stein that combined to grab nine rebounds in 51 total minutes of action.

Randolph and Labissiere didn’t fair much better, finishing with 10 boards between the two of them in 38 minutes with the starters. Between the Kings’ four bigs, they were out rebounded by the Nuggets bigs by a final of 34-19.

The Nuggets came into the night a top 10 rebounding team overall and the second best offensive rebounding team in the NBA at 11.8 per game.

It’s not just the bigs that struggled to grab boards for Sacramento. Without Buddy Hield, the club’s best rebounding wing, the Kings’ were dominated 49-34 overall in rebounding, including 14-5 on the offensive glass.

“The first shot, it’s a good contest, we did everything right, except get the rebound,” rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “And then they get an open shot off a second chance shot. If we can complete a lot of plays with the rebound, we’ll be okay.”

To Fox’s point, the defensive possession doesn’t end until the rebound is secured. Sacramento was outscored 19-6 on second chance points. In a 16-point game, those numbers loom large.

“Us guards, we know we have to help our bigs,” Fox said. “We know our bigs are athletic. We know they do what they do, at the end of the day, other team’s guards are helping their bigs rebound and their bigs aren’t alone.”

Outside of the four bigs, none of the other seven players to see action had more than three rebounds. It’s an issue that has to be addressed as the Kings move forward.

“There are some instances that really bothered me,” Joerger said. “We had some guys leaking out, standing at half court and that I won’t have.”

The Kings have a day of practice on Tuesday to try and sure up some of their issues. Some of the problems stem from inexperience, but some of the issue comes down to energy and effort.

It doesn’t even get easier on Wednesday. The Los Angeles Lakers rank second in the league in rebounding at 47.5 boards per game. On the plus side, they also give up the 28th most rebounds in the league.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone suspended for game against Kings

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USATSI

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone suspended for game against Kings

Michael Malone won't be on the sideline when his Nuggets take on his former team on Monday night.

The NBA announced Monday afternoon that Malone has been suspended without pay for the game against the Kings.

The suspension stems from Malone "entering the court, halting play and making contact with a game official" during Denver's game against the Lakers on Sunday. The incident occurred midway through the second quarter.

Malone was hired as head coach of the Kings prior to the 2013-14 season. He was fired just 24 games into the 2014-15 season.

Coverage of the Nuggets and Kings gets underway at 6:30pm on NBC Sports California and streaming on the NBC Sports App.