Kings stumble, fall to Love-less Minnesota 86-84


Kings stumble, fall to Love-less Minnesota 86-84

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The way that DeMarcus Cousins has been playing lately, the Minnesota Timberwolves were looking like fools for passing on him in favor of Wes Johnson last year.The way Nikola Pekovic is emerging as a force in the middle is definitely softening that blow.Pekovic had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Michael Beasley added 17 points and 14 boards to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to an 86-84 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night in their first game without the suspended Kevin Love.Ricky Rubio had 14 assists and five steals and Derrick Williams scored seven of his 14 points in the final four minutes to give the Timberwolves their third straight win.But it was Pekovic on both ends - whirling to the rim for thunderous dunks on offense and beating up Cousins on defense - that was the key to the Wolves (13-12) equaling their best start since 2005-06."He's the reason why we won," said rookie Derrick Williams, who had eight rebounds and three blocks in the start for Love.Pekovic held Cousins, who had 49 points and 39 rebounds in the previous two games, to 10 points on 3-for-13 shooting and 11 rebounds. The second-year man from Montenegro drew two fouls on Cousins in the first four minutes, and the volatile Cousins seemed flustered for the rest of the game."He is a man down there," Kings coach Keith Smart said of Pekovic. "He plays in the trenches where you have to play with a physical game and that young man has been playing well for over a week and a half now."He had 27 points and 11 rebounds in a win over New Jersey on Friday and provided huge offensive punch on Tuesday night when the rest of his team missed 13 of 16 shots in the third quarter.He made all six of his shots, three of them coming on dunks. One came on a between-the-legs feed from Rubio and another on a pretty spin to the baseline past Cousins.He also lowered his shoulder and ran right over Cousins for a layup, and picked Jason Thompson at halfcourt and finished the play with a nifty finger roll to bring the crowd to its feet."It's fun to watch him play," coach Rick Adelman said.Pekovic's play was just enough to hold off Jimmer Fredette and the Kings, who had won three in a row coming in. Fredette scored all 13 of his points in the final period. But Tyreke Evans and Cousins combined to shoot just 8 for 26.The Kings had a frenetic shot to win their fourth straight game in the final seconds, but Donte Greene's 3-pointer from the corner missed at the buzzer."It would have been a perfect, happy ending to our comeback for that to go in," Greene said. "But it didn't fall."Evans finished with 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting, while Thornton scored 21 of his 22 points in the first three quarters.The Kings trailed 69-60 to start the fourth, and Smart left his starting backcourt of Thornton and Evans on the bench and put his trust in Fredette.It's been a difficult rookie season for the heralded 10th overall pick out of BYU. He was benched for two straight games last week and played just 10 minutes in the win over New Orleans on Monday.But after clanking his first two attempts of the game Tuesday night, Fredette found his range.He buried three 3-pointers, scored off a steal and fed Greene for a dunk that got Sacramento back in it."I was just playing," Fredette said. "I knew I was shooting the ball well. We were coming back into the game, more importantly."Greene's 3-pointer tied it at 82 with 1:09 to go, but Williams came back with a big 3-pointer in the corner to give the Wolves just enough to win without their All-Star.Love was suspended Monday for stepping on Rockets forward Luis Scola last Saturday."I think it builds character and it builds a winning attitude," Beasley said. "Especially go up over .500, that's real important for us."Notes: Love also will sit out Wednesday night's game at Memphis. ... Cousins picked up two fouls in the first four minutes and his fourth with 2:26 to go in the third. ... The Kings turned it over 19 times and shot 38 percent. ... Timberwolves C Darko Milicic missed the game with a sprained right ankle suffered in practice Monday.

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


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.