SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – The Timberwolves were hoping some improbable history repeated itself on Monday night.
For the second time this season, they came here hoping to stop an 11-game losing streak. It’s intriguing to think of the infinitesimal odds of that happening: Two 11-game losing streaks, ending in the same place, in the only two matchups the Wolves play there?
The Wolves wouldn’t have been in this predicament had they closed out what seemed like a sure victory vs. Sacramento a week earlier at Target Center — a loss that loomed larger considering they extended their streak to 12 in a 113-109 loss at the Golden 1 Center.
The Wolves cut a 21-point second-half Sacramento lead to two in the fourth quarter, but as has been the case several times this season, they had ceded too much ground they had to make up as the Kings shot 14-for-27 from three-point range. The Wolves had a chance to tie the score with 4.7 seconds remaining after forcing a five-second violation, but Andrew Wiggins’ three-point attempt rimmed out.
“These losses hurt,” Wolves coach Ryan Saunders said. “They do, and I understand that. We just got to keep pounding the rock. Eventually it breaks. You just keep pounding the rock and that’s not an empty line because if you just keep staying with it, keep being diligent in your preparation and do things the right away, eventually good things will come.”
But just when “eventually” is remains up for debate.
De’Aaron Fox scored 31 points to lead the Kings. Karl-Anthony Towns led six Wolves players in double figures with 22. Wiggins had only 10 on 3-for-11 shooting.
The NBA trade deadline is approaching Thursday with rumors swirling nationally around the Wolves — and their most discussed potential trade partner, the Warriors, had two representatives in attendance Monday. The Wolves looked like a team whose minds were elsewhere from the jump.
They fell behind quickly 18-4 and had trouble generating offense outside of Towns. Robert Covington, the subject of a lot of the trade speculation, was 1-for-5, while Shabazz Napier and Jarrett Culver were a combined 0-for-8.
Saunders said it was hard to measure if the deadline was a distraction. Towns said he didn’t think that was a cause for the Wolves’ slow start.
“I don’t think so,” Towns said. “We all are in this together. We’re just trying to find ways to get this [win]. We’ve been on a losing street and we didn’t get it done today. We’re all just trying to find ways to get the win.”
The Wolves slumped into the locker room down 65-50 after Sacramento shot 54% in the first half. It finally got a little better in the third quarter when Jordan Bell came off the bench and a group that also featured Josh Okogie, Kelan Martin, Jordan McLaughlin and Towns finally made the team’s first significant run. The Wolves cut a 20-point deficit to 91-82, forcing the Kings to call a timeout. The Wolves would stay down nine at 93-84 headed into the fourth.
The Wolves pulled closer at 95-90, holding Sacramento to only two points over the first 4:24 of the final quarter. When Towns returned to the floor, he hit a three to make it 97-95. A Martin three made it 101-98 before Sacramento reeled off five points in a row. The Wolves had that final chance to tie, but like many comeback attempts before it, they came up short.
“It’s weighs on you,” Towns said. “You want to win. You play this game to win. At least I for sure do. Food don’t taste as good. Life is not as fun. We’ve got to find ways to win.”
• Forward Allen Crabbe missed his third consecutive game because of a left knee subluxation, but Saunders noted that Crabbe participated in an “intense” group workout earlier Monday, and that he’s trending in the right direction.