Tom Thibodeau’s arrival in Minnesota as the Timberwolves coach brought much optimism. Then, Minnesota lost 18 times in their first 24 games and Thibodeau’s defensive approach seemed lost on the young Timberwolves.
Perhaps Thibodeau and his new squad just needed some time.
Minnesota has won three of its past four games as it hosts the Sacramento Kings on Friday. Twice in that span, the Timberwolves have held their opponent under 100 points and they’ve pulled out three games decided by single digits.
“We just feel more confident in ourselves,” second-year center Karl-Anthony Towns said after Minnesota won 92-84 on the road in Atlanta on Wednesday. “I told you after we won in Chicago, we have a different swagger, a different walk, a different talk. That’s a sign we’re growing.”
The Timberwolves recent stretch started with a 99-94 win in Chicago. They followed with an overtime loss to Houston in which they led by nine points in the final minute, before beating Phoenix and Atlanta the past two games.
Minnesota (9-19) has won back-to-back games for the first time all season.
“I feel like we’re playing good basketball,” forward Andrew Wiggins said. “I feel like it should be four in a row the way we’ve been playing. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Sacramento (12-17) is another team looking to keep momentum. The Kings’ come-from-behind win at Utah on Wednesday was their third in four games. Two of those wins have come on the road.
With DeMarcus Cousins leading the way, Sacramento plays at a slower pace but has held four of its past six opponents under 100 points.
Wednesday’s victory at Utah was strengthened by the team’s bench and a focus on defense. Sacramento’s reserves outscored the Jazz bench 49-21.
“I think we were getting good stops,” backup point guard Ty Lawson told the Sacramento Bee. “And when we get stops, it’s easy for us to run and their defense was not set, so we get in the paint.”
The bench proved particularly helpful with the Kings on the second-game of a back-to-back situation. Friday will be the Kings’ fifth game in eight days.
“Two nights in a row we have been in close games,” Sacramento coach Dave Joerger told the Sacramento Bee. “And I am proud of our guys because over the long haul of the season; it’s some guys some nights, some guys the other nights as far as who is having a good game. When it’s not your night and it is someone else, you have got to support them and try to help them. We’re getting to that point.”
Cousins is still the backbone of the Kings’ offense every night. He had 21 points against Utah on Wednesday a night after scoring a season-high 55 against Portland. Cousins is third in the NBA, averaging 29 points per game.
Towns is 21st with a 22.1 points-per-game average and Wiggins is 23rd, averaging 21.9 points per game.
Joerger is in his first season with Sacramento, just like Thibodeau. Joerger is from Staples, Minnesota. Friday features two teams possibly figuring things out with their new coach.
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