Timberwolves use ‘complete performance on both ends’ to down Kings in Sacramento

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So often after wins this season, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch pinpoints a couple areas in which Minnesota struggled or must improve upon moving forward.

That was not the case after Minnesota’s 110-98 victory Saturday in Sacramento.

“A complete performance for us on both ends,” Finch told reporters.

There simply wasn’t much to nitpick. Not on a night where Minnesota only trailed 2-0, then never again. The Timberwolves jumped out to an early advantage and never really relinquished control from there, building a lead as big as 22 points.

The Timberwolves (22-6) tamed Sacramento’s high-powered offense, holding the Kings (17-11) to their second-lowest point total of the season in games in which star guard De’Aaron Fox played.

Fox was hassled by Jaden McDaniels all night. The guard finished with 27 points on 10 for 23 shooting. As a team, the Kings shot 24 percent from distance.

“I thought we took pretty good shots throughout most of the night that didn’t go in, but you’ve got to give them credit,” Kings coach Mike Brown told reporters. “They’re long, they’re athletic and they fly around. You feel a little bit more pressure to get that shot off a little bit quicker, even though they’re not going to block it most times on a perimeter 3-point shot. But they make it tough on you.

“This is a game that you got to go into with a lot of mental resilience, because there’s no telling what can happen throughout the course of the game with their length and the way they scramble and the protection they have at the rim.”

The latter, of course, comes from Rudy Gobert, who was his usual dominant self on the interior. That was true on both ends. Defensively, Gobert blocked two shots. But on offense, he filled in for much of the missing production of Karl-Anthony Towns — who missed the game with knee soreness. Gobert finished with 21 points on 10 for 13 shooting to go with 17 boards.

“He set the tone early, had a bunch of dunks, put pressure on the rim early to kind of loosen things up,” Finch said. “He’s been playing this way all season.”

The entire starting lineup shined throughout the night. Anthony Edwards had 34 points and 10 assists. McDaniels scored 20 points and Mike Conley contributed 12 points, nine dimes and seven rebounds as the Wolves avenged their 124-111 loss to the Kings at Target Center in late November.

Trailing by 19 with seven minutes to play, the Kings did make things interesting via an 18-4 run to pull within five with two minutes to play. But the Wolves responded by scoring the game’s next seven points to put the contest on ice.

It seemed every time the Kings delivered a punch Saturday, Minnesota’s counterstrike was quick and effective.

“We just had to catch our breath, a little bit. They were pressing, they were getting a lot of good looks, playing faster. We kind of slowed our game down, slowed our pace down. When that happens, teams can come back,” Conley said in his post-game, on-court television interview. “So I think once we caught our breath, settled things down, got to our offensive sets and got some good looks, guys brought us home.”

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