SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The saving grace of still having Jimmy Butler on the roster for the Timberwolves amid the noise surrounding his trade request was this — at least they should not be terrible as long as he was on the roster and playing well.
But all hasn’t gone according to plan, with the Wolves reaching the nadir of their early season Friday in a 121-110 loss to the Kings at Golden 1 Center to cap off an 0-5 road trip that dropped them to 4-9 on the season.
Their defense has as many potholes in it as a Minnesota road after a snowy winter. Their rebounding is as loose as oversized sweatpants. And though the Wolves made an admirable push in the fourth quarter to trim a 15-point lead to two, the night was incomplete, just as most of this season has been. Save for Derrick Rose’s 50-point night last week, there has been little for the Wolves to celebrate. At some point Butler figures to be elsewhere, and the Wolves are running out of time to compile wins while he’s still around.
The Wolves wasted a 39-point night from Karl-Anthony Towns while the Kings had all five starters in double figures, led by Willie Cauley-Stein with 25 and former Wolves forward Nemanja Bjelica with 14 points and eight rebounds.
After the game, the Wolves locker room was a somber one as a long flight back to Minneapolis awaited. Questions already surrounded the franchise off the court; now there are myriad problems on it. The Wolves have talked ad nauseum about how they have to fix their defense and rebound better.
“We always talk about it. I mean, I think as a team we do a lot of talking and we’re not going out there and doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Butler said. “We talk about it during the game, before the game, damn sure the same thing after the game. But whenever we’re out there, I’m serious man, we just got to go out and do it.”
As he has in the Wolves’ last few games, Towns got off to a roaring start.
The 29 points Towns scored in the first half were the second most he has scored in a half and the most he has scored in a first half.
But the Wolves couldn’t distance themselves from the Kings because of their porous defense. De’Aaron Fox (16 points, 10 assists) led a fast-paced attack and the Wolves offered little transition defense.
“We have to find ways to win the game, do little things and play defense,” Towns said. “If we can’t do that, we ain’t going to win. It’s simple basketball, offense and defense. We play offense well. We don’t play defense well.”
Towns cooled off considerably to start the second half and the Wolves had trouble scoring in the third quarter. The Kings built their lead through the fourth with a relentless wave in transition that led to 38 fast-break points, as if the Wolves weren’t tired enough at the end of a long trip.
Though the Wolves cut the deficit to two, they didn’t have enough to overcome the fast-paced Kings and head home to face a long look in the mirror.
“It’s small details, a little small thing called communication at times,” Gibson said. “But everybody is at fault. You can’t look at one play here and there. We’re a team and got to correct it together and when we lose, we lose together. When we win, we win together.”
But there hasn’t been much of that lately.