MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota’s locker room was dead silent after an overtime loss Tuesday to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Timberwolves players sitting at their lockers knew they squandered an opportunity when they let a fourth-quarter lead slip away.
When Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns eventually addressed the media, he was particularly hard on himself.
“I failed my team tonight,” said Towns, who had 19 points and 16 rebounds but struggled defensively to guard Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota, which lost despite a 38-point effort from guard Jimmy Butler, now has a chance to bounce back Thursday when the Timberwolves host Sacramento. At just 9-18 — and with the lowest-scoring offense in the league — the Kings could be the cure for what ails Minnesota.
Sacramento comes to Minneapolis having won two of its last three, but the Kings are one of only a few teams in the NBA averaging fewer than 100 points per game (96.2). The Wolves, meanwhile, have allowed 106.7 points per contest this season heading into Thursday’s game.
The Kings are fresh off a 99-92 win over Phoenix on Tuesday and will face Minnesota for the first time this season. Veteran Zach Randolph was big in the fourth quarter of that win for Sacramento as he scored 11 of his 17 points in the final frame.
“He’s just a hard matchup,” Kings guard Frank Mason III told the Arizona Republic about Randolph, who is in his first year with Sacramento.
Through 25 games, Randolph is averaging 15.2 points and 7.0 rebounds. Randolph’s veteran presence off the court and his production on it have earned him praise from Kings coach Dave Joerger, who also coached Randolph in Memphis. Joerger is a Staples native.
“He plays for big moments, and big shots,” Joerger told the Sacramento Bee. “We may not have a great record, but you get in a game like this and it is competition.”
The Kings are in the middle of a grueling stretch of games that includes four straight on the road after recently having another four-game road trip. Joerger’s club has a six-game homestand to look forward to beginning later this month, but it first must get through the likes of Minnesota, Toronto, Philadelphia and Brooklyn on the road.
Sacramento likely won’t be battling for a playoff spot any time soon. Minnesota’s expectations, meanwhile, are to make the postseason for the first time since 2003-04. Though the Timberwolves have inconsistent at times this year, they sit at 16-12 as they get ready to host the Kings in the midst of a five-game homestand.
Minnesota just hopes it learned a few valuable lessons from Tuesday’s difficult loss to a young but talented 76ers squad. For one thing, the Timberwolves will have to shoot better from 3-point range. Minnesota was 5-of-29 from deep Tuesday but was 1-for-21 until Butler hit a pair of 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter.
“It’s never fun to lose,” Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins said. “Especially when it’s a battle, a close game.”
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