The last time the Minnesota Timberwolves returned from a winless West Coast trip, they managed to overcome a slow start by winning a number of home games.
Then they went on the West Coast again and delivered four disappointing performances.
Minnesota hopes to rebound from an underwhelming road trip Monday night when it hosts the Sacramento Kings, who are playing the second night of a back-to-back set.
Minnesota (13-16) is among the teams with the greatest road and home disparities in the league. The Wolves are 11-4 in Minnesota but 2-12 in road games.
The Wolves won seven of 10 home games and eight of 12 games overall before going on its second lengthy Western swing of the season with visits to Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, and Phoenix.
While all four of the losses were by single digits, the Wolves did not distinguish themselves defensively. After allowing 100.6 points in 12 games from Nov. 12-Dec. 5, the Wolves allowed 119.3 points, 48 percent shooting, and 40.1 percent from 3-point range.
“The first 10 games after the trade we played with a lot of edge and played with a purpose,” Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “I think right now we got too loose. We’re too cool for school right now.”
One of those games was Wednesday’s 141-130 loss in Sacramento when Minnesota allowed 58.1 percent shooting, 33 fast-break points, 19 3-pointers, and seven Kings to hit double figures. Wednesday also was the most points Minnesota ever allowed to Sacramento, eclipsing the 127 it gave up in a 127-95 home loss on March 20, 2011
Three days later, Minnesota followed it up with a 107-98 loss in Phoenix, which had not won two in a row in nearly a year. While Minnesota had enough offense in the first three games, scoring was a problem in Phoenix where the Wolves shot 40.6 percent and scored 41 points after halftime.
“We didn’t come out with the urgency of a team that wanted to win the game,” Minnesota guard Derrick Rose said. “I think that’s how this game is played. You can’t come out lackadaisical, you can’t come out nonchalant. You’ve got to come out and play as hard as you can, especially when you’ve lost three in a row, and it shows. Tonight we lost four.”
The Wolves will be looking to match the offense of Rose and Towns with the defense that emerged during the 12-game hot stretch. Rose scored 25 Saturday and averaged 21 points on the trip while Towns finished with 28 Saturday and averaged 24.4 points on the trip.
Sacramento (16-13) is three games over .500 for the second time this season after getting a 120-113 win in Dallas on Sunday. The Kings were 6-3 following a 146-115 win at Atlanta on Nov. 1 but then lost eight of their next 12 but head to Minnesota with six wins in their last eight games.
The Kings rebounded from blowing a 10-point lead in Friday’s 130-125 home loss to Golden State by getting 28 points apiece from Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox.
“We were worried about having a hangover, with a tough loss at home against the Warriors, but we are learning,” Sacramento coach Dave Joerger said. “We are showing growth and the way that we played tonight was positive.”
Hield was 12 of 23 from the floor while Fox was 11 of 19. Hield reached 20 points for the third straight game and fifth time in six games while Fox topped 20 points for the fourth time in six contests.
“It was nice, especially coming off of a bad loss,” Hield said. “We executed well against a good Dallas team and now we just have to keep on grinding and having fun. Now we head to Minnesota.”
“We are young and we like to have fun. That’s what we do. We started off that way in training camp, making plays and getting out on the open court.
If the Kings can enjoy themselves again in a win, it will mark the first time they are four games over .500 at any point since the end of the 2005-06 season when they were 44-38 and last reached the playoffs.
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