SACRAMENTO -- When you’ve lost four straight and sit at the bottom of the league in wins, you search for small victories. In Monday night’s 118-100 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, second-year big man Skal Labissiere’s number stood out in an otherwise dreary boxscore.
The 21-year-old power forward went to work on the offensive end, putting up 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting over veteran Taj Gibson. It was a solid game for the the second-year-big, but he wasn’t satisfied with his performance following the loss.
“For me, it’s on the defensive end,” Labissiere told NBC Sports California. “I don’t think I did a good job on the defensive end. Hopefully tomorrow, I’ll tune that up.”
Playing in just his third game since returning from a shoulder injury, Labissiere started and played 31 minutes at the power forward position. He’s still trying to shake off the rust after an extended layoff.
“I’m still getting my legs under me after being out almost a month,” Labissiere said. “It’s going to come.”
In his first game back on Thursday, Labissiere matched up with 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony. He held his own against a ball dominant, isolation player. On Saturday against the Lakers, it was stretch four Kyle Kuzma that lined up opposite Labissiere and he looked more comfortable than he has all season defending the perimeter.
Against the T-Wolves, Gibson tried to bully Labissiere in the post using his strength. The veteran forward finished the night with 15 points and five rebounds in nearly 35 minutes of play.
“It’s all part of the learning process for me, learning how to play both [inside and on the perimeter],” Labissiere said. “It’s an adjustment and I think I’ll figure it out.”
Labissiere will face another versatile four Tuesday night in Portland in 6-foot-9 Al-Farouq Aminu. If he lets Aminu loose on the perimeter, it could be another long night for Sacramento.
Welcome to Sacramento
The Kings acquired 22-year-old, Bruno Caboclo, in a swap for Malachi Richardson at the NBA trade deadline earlier this month. The Brazilian-born forward has played sparingly in his three-plus seasons since being drafted with the 20th overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft, seeing just 113 minutes of total time with the Toronto Raptors.
On Monday night against the T-Wolves, Caboclo saw his first action in a Kings uniform, playing almost 19 minutes of Dave Joerger’s bench. He’s a long and rangy athlete that is still waiting for a real opportunity in the league.
“It felt good, it’s the first opportunity I’ve had here,” Caboclo told NBC Sports California following the game. “I’m still struggling a little of bit with a couple of plays, but my teammates helped me.”
Caboclo didn’t looked overwhelmed by the action. He finished the night with four points on 2-of-7 shooting. He missed all three of his long range attempts, but he managed to grab three rebounds, dish out an assist and pick up a steal in his first run in Sacramento.
“It’s very exciting,” Caboclo said. “I got more of a taste of playing the NBA game. This is kind of like one of my first times I got minutes, so it feels good.”
Games That Matter
The Minnesota Timberwolves are fighting for their playoff dreams. For the last 13 seasons, they’ve finished on the outside looking in of the NBA’s second season. It’s the longest current playoff drought in the league and the second longest streak in NBA history.
Despite facing a blow to their playoff chance with the injury to All-Star shooting guard, Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves sit 12 games over .500 at 38-26. They currently sit in third place in the Western Conference standings behind the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors with 18 games remaining on their schedule.