It began like so many other Sacramento Kings games this season. Turnovers led to an early 16 point deficit. The second unit came in and changed the energy of the game. But instead of fading down the stretch, the Kings caught fire, pushing their lead as high as 15 as they shocked the Minnesota Timberwolves by a final of 123-117.
“It’s a struggle playing five games in seven night,” coach Dave Joerger said following the game. “This was tough, it was a good test for our young guys to mentally fight through.”
From Buddy Hield’s career night to Langston Galloway’s sharpshooting, almost every Kings player that stepped on the floor contributed in some way.
Hield tied his career-high with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting. While his teammates were handing the ball over at an alarming rate early, the rookie shooting guard kept the Kings from getting completely blown out.
Since coming over from the Pelicans with Hield at the All-Star break, Galloway has played sparingly off Joerger’s bench. The veteran guard caught fire against the Minny, scoring 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
“We’re out there competing and playing hard,” Galloway told NBC Sports California’s Kayte Christensen following the game. “Definitely just having a great night. I think we can definitely be a deadly team in this league.”
The trio of Hield, Galloway and Arron Afflalo hit 11of-15 from behind the arc as the Kings exploded for 105 points between quarters two through four.
Rookie big man Georgios Papagiannis played with a veteran laden second team and had a nice night. He stayed on the ground as a defender, which has been an issue of late and in the offensive sets, he cleared out space for his guards to work.
“I thought he rebounded pretty well and he got guys wide open shots,” Joerger said of Papagiannis. “Screening was a big key.”
Papagiannis finished with just four points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of action, but he was part of the unit that outscored the T-Wolves bench 66-26.
Ty Lawson played a huge role with the second team. With Galloway and Afflalo stretching the floor and Papagiannis clearing space, the pint-sized point guard managed to roast rookie Kris Dunn and veteran Ricky Rubio for 21 points and 11 assists in just 25 minutes of action.
Willie Cauley-Stein crashed the glass for Sacramento, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the win. Over his last five games, the 7-footer is averaging 11 rebounds per game as he grows into his starter role at the five.
“Now you get to play through your mistakes and that’s how you learn it,” Cauley-Stein said of his increased opportunity. “You don't learn it from peeking over your shoulder the whole time.”
It was a team win for Sacramento. Five players scored in double figures and even those who didn’t still contributed in some way. Anthony Tolliver stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, four rebounds, three assists and three blocks as the Kings tried to slow Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Skal Labissiere chipped in six points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of action as the Kings picked up their 30th win of the season.
Following the game, the Kings boarded a flight for Sacramento where they’ll take on the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night at Golden 1 Center.