SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – However you add up numbers of such disparity, the Timberwolves now are all even after Friday’s 101-91 victory at Sacramento.
Add 2-6 at home and 6-2 on the road and you get 8-8 — a .500 record — as well as a three-game winning streak for a young team now a month into its season.
Winners at such places as Chicago, Atlanta and Miami before Friday night, the Wolves came to Sleep Train Arena in its last season and with point guard Ricky Rubio missing from the starting lineup and beat a Kings team that took the floor without star center DeMarcus Cousins.
They did so without scoring a point on a fast break all night, something they hadn’t gone without since playing at Sacramento in 2010. They did so with efficient defense produced by both starters and the team’s reserves.
And they did so communally from the three-point line.
Seven players each made one of the Wolves’ nine three-pointers. That ties a record after seemingly everybody — from rookie Karl-Anthony Towns to 39-year-old veteran Andre Miller — made one.
“It’s important just to win,” Wolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell said. “To consider yourself legit in this league, you have to be .500 or better. You know that. We’re trying to carve out some respect as a young team in this league. In order to do that, you have to come out and play, play defense, play team basketball. Our guys are doing that.”
They did that Friday by withstanding a Kings team that received a 16-point, 16-assist, zero-turnover performance from veteran point guard Rajon Rondo and a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double from replacement center Kosta Koufos.
The Wolves have held four consecutive opponents under 100 points, the first such streak since they did so in six consecutive games in November 2012 when Rick Adelman was coach.
With Rubio out because of soreness in his surgically repaired left ankle, Zach LaVine started at point guard and delivered a 19-point, eight-rebound, four-assist game, while teammate Andrew Wiggins led the Wolves in scoring for the ninth time in 11 games. Wiggins scored 22 points, and Mitchell again praised his fourth-quarter play, not for his scoring this time but for making the play that led to a needed basket.
Asked what it means to be 8-8 and tied for the West’s final playoff spot if the season had ended Friday, LaVine said: “It means we could be a lot better if we had won our games at home, what we should be doing. We need to just keep pushing, get on a roll at home. That’s what we’re going for. We can’t dwell on the past. We’re looking for the future now.”
Before Friday’s game, Sacramento coach George Karl called the Wolves’ disparate home and road records “crazy.”
“Can’t win at home and win on the road,” Karl said. “That’s not happening much in NBA history.”
Afterward, Mitchell again couldn’t explain, other than to say the team’s well-traveled preseason schedule has made his team comfortable away from home.
“Don’t ask,” he said. “Dude, if I knew that, I wouldn’t be coaching.
“For whatever reason, I’m just glad we win, whether home or road. I don’t care, it’s just hard to win in this league.
“For a young team to grind it out and play defense, I’m just proud we’re doing something different every night to win the game.”