The Timberwolves suffered a disappointing loss on Friday, going down 113-114 against the Bulls on the back of some late-game heroics from their former player Zach LaVine. Jimmy Butler continued his incredible form with 38 points and five assists, but it wasn't enough against his former side. They are now 34-24, and in fourth place in the Western Conference standings. The Timberwolves have lost six of their past ten games.
They will be expecting a comfortable victory on Sunday, however, when they host a Sacramento side coming off a 100-118 loss to Portland. Willie Cauley-Stein had 19 points and Zach Randolph added 17, but they couldn’t stop Damian Lillard, who put up 50 points in just three quarters. The Kings are now at 17-37 and sit in a cluster of four teams at the bottom of the west.
Three keys to the game
Butler’s form - Butler has been incredible of late and is on a remarkable streak of seven games in which he has continually improved his scoring output. Since he returned from injury against the Nets late in January he has scored, in order, 21 points, 24, 25, 28, 30, 35, 38, for an overall average of 28.7 points per game in this time.
Sacramento’s offense - The Kings haven’t been good at either end of the floor this season, but their offense is a complete disaster. Their 100.6 points per 100 possessions is more than a point less than the next worse offensive team, and at times they have looked completely devoid of any sort of gameplan.
Timberwolves’ home court advantage - Minnesota have become a team which is dominant at home and subpar on the road this season. Away from home they are 12-18, but in Minnesota they are an incredible 22-6, a better winning percentage than every other team at home aside from the Raptors.
Matchup to watch
Zach Randolph vs Karl-Anthony Towns - This should be an entertaining matchup at center. Randolph is a seasoned veteran, and though he has had a down few weeks, he is having a solid season on the whole. He is averaging 14.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, but when he brings his best is capable of putting in dominant performances. Towns is at the opposite end of his career, though he is having somewhat of a down season compared to 2016/17. He is averaging 20 points per game, five less than last year, and the Timberwolves are running a lot less offense through him. He has, however, improved his 3-point shooting significantly and is hitting a huge 42.6% from downtown this year, while also grabbing 12.1 rebounds, dishing out 2.3 assists and contributing 1.4 blocks a game.
Minnesota Timberwolves predicted starting lineup
PG - Jeff Teague | SG - Andrew Wiggins | SF - Jimmy Butler | PF - Taj Gibson | C - Karl-Anthony Towns
Sacramento Kings predicted starting lineup
PG - De’Aaron Fox | SG - Bogdan Bogdanovic | SF - Justin Jackson | PF - Willie Cauley-Stein | C - Zach Randolph
When these sides met earlier in the season, Towns put in a monster game. He scored 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting, grabbed 14 rebounds (including five offensive), dished out five assists, and also contributed a huge five blocks and a steal. In nine career games against Sacramento he has been very efficient, scoring 20.6 points on 56.3% shooting from the floor and 45% shooting from beyond the arc. He has also contributed 10.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and just under two blocks per game in these matchups.
Minnesota have been given pretty comfortable favoritism in this game. The line has been set at 13 points, and though the Timberwolves should win easily, it’s tough to tip them to win by more than this margin. Though the game won’t be close, take the Kings to cover the line in this one.
This will be an easy victory for Minnesota. Butler should be able to continue his excellent form against a mediocre opponent, while Towns will be able to use his extra height to capitalize on his matchup against the determined but undersized Randolph.
Sacramento have virtually no weapons at either end of the floor, and though the Timberwolves are shaky defensively, they’ll score more than enough to take care of business in this game. They’ll be hoping their stars can rest up in the last quarter as they send Sacramento on their way with a resounding defeat. Minnesota will take this one out 114-103.
The game will be broadcast locally on Fox Sports North and NBCSA. Tip-off is at 7pm ET.