T-Wolves snap losing streak with victory over Kings
MINNEAPOLIS – Al Jefferson’s biggest fear was not winning again.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, after all, entered Wednesday night having not won in more than a month and carrying the burden of a 16-game losing streak.
That’s why the reaction in the Timberwolves locker room after their 108-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings was part joy and part relief.
“I’m happy. Yeah I’m happy,” said Jefferson, who led Minnesota with 19 points and 12 rebounds. “It’s good to get this win. It’s real good to get the win and to prove to the other teams that we can play the right way.”
It was Feb. 23 when Minnesota last won, at Miami. The 36 days since then have been frustrating for the team with the worst record in the Western Conference. Facing mostly playoff teams, the Timberwolves simply couldn’t get traction.
“There were times in the majority of those games when we played well,” Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said. “But there were moments where we had incredible collapses.”
That’s part of the reason why Rambis described the postgame scene as the Timberwolves being as happy as they have been all season.
“You go through a stretch like that, if you’re not happy to get off that slide, I don’t know what’s wrong with you,” said Jonny Flynn, who scored 18 points. “We want to keep this going, finish it strong, finish this year out.”
Considering Minnesota’s recent stretch, it wasn’t a surprise that this victory – the Wolves’ first at home since Feb. 6 – didn’t come easy.
After a strong third quarter and start of the fourth, the Timberwolves led 94-74 when Wayne Ellington hit a 3-pointer with 8:11 to play. Sacramento went on a 16-2 run to make the ending interesting.
When Kings rookie Tyreke Evans made one free throw with 3:08 to play, the Kings were within six, 96-90
But Corey Brewer, whom the Timberwolves are touting for the league’s most improved player, made sure the Wolves didn’t lose. Over the game’s final 2:11, Brewer made a 3-pointer, completed a 3-point play, made a pair of free throws and stole a Sacramento inbound pass and went in for a dunk. Those 10 points allowed the Wolves to hang on.
While Brewer clinched the victory, Minnesota’s big men put the Timberwolves in position to win.
Along with Jefferson’s 34th double-double of the season, Minnesota got 15 points and 10 rebounds from Darko Milicic and 12 points and 11 rebounds from Kevin Love. Those three double-doubles were much of the reason Minnesota outrebounded Sacramento 46-33. The Wolves also set a season-high with 10 blocked shots against a Sacramento team playing without the injured Spencer Hawes.
“I think the biggest reason is Milicic, Jefferson and Love really played great,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “I’m not so sure we would have outrebounded them had we had Spencer. It would have been nice to have him. Give those guys credit, they were outstanding on the boards.”
Carl Landry led Sacramento with 22 points while Donte Green added 21 points for a Kings team that has now lost six consecutive games and 11 of its past 13 road games.
“We should have started like we finished,” Sacramento’s Jason Thompson said.
Evans, who recently missed five games after a concussion, played in both ends of Sacramento’s back-to-back. After scoring 17 points on Tuesday night, Evans finished with 20 points and 13 assists against the Timberwolves.
But when it was over, the Timberwolves got to, once again, experience a victory.
“Obviously that feels really good,” Rambis said.
NOTES: The Timberwolves played without forward Damien Wilkins, who missed the game because of an upper respiratory illness. The team hopes he can return for Saturday’s game against Miami. … Omri Casspi was in uniform, but did not play for Sacramento. He missed the game at Indiana because of illness. … Before the game, the Timberwolves sent forward Nathan Jawai to Sioux Falls in the NBDL. Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said Jawai, who is athletic for his size, needs to play extended minutes.
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