Kings squeak past Timberwolves 106-103

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Sacramento Kings
Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

by Charlie O. Mallonee

Sacramento – The Sacramento Kings won their first game in the new Golden 1 Center on Saturday night by squeaking by the Minnesota Timberwolves 106-103.It was literally a last-second victory as the Timberwolves had the chance to tie the game or take the lead with 02.6-seconds left on the clock.

The Kings record improves to 2-1 on the season with the victory. Head coach Dave Joerger said the win has some meaning as the Kings get ready to start a five-game road trip.

“It just means you go on the road trip 2-1. I think there is a nice difference between being 2-1 and 1-2 and how you feel about yourself, knowing you are going to play your next five in all kinds of different states around the union,” said coach Joerger about the upcoming road trip. “I think that’s a better feeling getting on the plane tomorrow.”

The loss leaves the Timberwolves winless on the season. Minnesota lost their season opener in Memphis when they let a 14-point lead slip away late in the game. The Timberwolves let an 18-point lead over the Kings evaporate on Saturday night.

New Minnesota head coach Tom Thibodeau likes his teams talent but feels that something has to happen before they can start winning.

“We have to get a lot tougher. We got to get a lot tougher.”

Minnesota can pass and shoot the ball. The Timberwolves shot 51.4-percent from the floor in the game. They shot over 60-percent in the first quarter. Thibodeau is also correct when he says they are not a very physical team when they need to be.

The Kings started the game slowly shooting under 40-percent for much of the first quarter and allowing Andrew Wiggins to score 13 points. Dave Joerger became so frustrated that he pulled his five starters off the floor with 3:18 to go in the quarter and put in the entire second unit.

The Kings came back to life in the second quarter behind Rudy Gay who scored 12 points and DeMarcus Cousins who put up 11. Matt Barnes came off the bench to make a real difference especially on defense.

The Timberwolves led the Kings 65-54 at halftime.

The third quarter was the difference maker in this game. The Kings came out on fire on both ends of the floor. Sacramento outscored Minnesota 31-12 in the period. The Timberwolves shot only 25-percent from the floor.

Minnesota turned the ball over seven times in the period that resulted in 14 Sacramento points. The Kings had just two turnovers the Timberwolves were unable to turn into any points.

“The 3rd quarter was a problem, big problem. We have to take a look the problems and see where the issues are,” said Tom Thibodeau.

The fourth quarter began with the Kings leading 85-77. Sacramento opened up a 10-point lead then the Timberwolves began to chip away at the that lead. Minnesota went on a 9-0 run and tied the game 100-100 with 3:11 to play.

The Kings went back up by five. After Wiggins hit a free throw and cut the lead to four, the unthinkable happened. DeMarcus Cousins picked up his sixth personal foul with 50.9-seconds left in the game. The Kings had to finish the game with their best player on the bench.

Rookie guard Kris Dunn who was fouled by Cousins missed both of his free throws. Gorgui Dieng grabbed the rebound and Zach LaVine missed a 3-point jump shot. Karl-Anthony Towns got the rebound and converted the lay up to make it a two point game, 105-103.

After winning a jump ball, the Timberwolves were unable to hit a basket. Matt Barnes was fouled going for a rebound with 00.2-seconds left. He hit 1-of-2 free throws to end the game.

The Kings won the game 106-103.

Kings (2-1)

  • Cousins was the Kings leading scorer with 29 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists
  • Rudy Gay had a big night 28 points, 11-for-20 shooting
  • Matt Barnes – the impact player of the game off the bench – 12 points including three 3-pointers to go with 9 assists
  • Ben McLemore bounced back from his troubles in the Spurs game scoring 13 points and shooting 50-percent from the field
  • The Kings improved their shooting by 6-percent over Thursday by shooting 45.9-percent (39-for-85) in the game.

Timberwolves (0-2)

  • Andrew Wiggins scored 29 points to lead the Timberwolves scoring attack. He is very difficult to stop when he wants to shoot.
  • Guard Zach LaVine had a big night putting up 21 points while shooting 50-percent from the floor
  • Karl-Anthony Towns added 15 points but the battle between him and fellow Kentucky Wildcat DeMarcus Cousins was a non-event. They just did not match up much in the game
  • PG Ricky Rubio experienced a sprained elbow. Rubio was rumored to be a trade target of the Kings but Minnesota was reluctant to part with him until Kris Dunn is ready

Up Next

The Kings begin a five-game road trip on Monday night in Atlanta. Sacramento will play five games in seven nights all in the Eastern time zone except for the Milwaukee game which is in the Central time zone.

Minnesota heads home to open their home season with the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night. The Timberwolves will be looking for redemption after losing to Memphis in their season opener.

It’s official: the George Karl era has ended

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by Charlie O. Mallonee

SACRAMENTO–In the worst kept personnel move ever, the Sacramento Kings have fired head coach and future Hall of Famer George Karl. Multiple media sources – including this one – had been reporting that Karl would be dismissed since Wednesday morning.

The termination comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following the Kings for the past 18 months. DeMarcus Cousins did not want the team to hire Karl in the first place. Karl was almost fired over the summer for trying initiate a trade for Cousins, and vice president and general manager Vlade Divac wanted to terminate Karl in February when the team was in midst of turmoil. This was a relationship that was doomed from the very beginning.

“After evaluating the team’s performance this season, I determined it was necessary to move forward with a new voice from the head coaching position,” said Divac. “I have a great deal of respect and admiration for George and his accomplishments throughout his nearly 30 years in the NBA. On behalf of everyone in the Kings organization, I thank him for the contributions made during his time in Sacramento and wish him good fortune in the future.”

This will be the first time the  Vivek Ranadive ownership group has a head of basketball operations in place before hiring a head coach. Michael Malone and George Karl were hired before the general manager was in place and the results have been disastrous and resulted in both coaches being fired.

There have been reports that the minority owners have been upset over the handling of the hiring and firing coaches by Ranadive. For instance, Karl walks away with a reported $6.5-million due him for the remainder of his contract. Investors hate to pay “dead money” to anyone knowing they will have to pay out big dollars to the new coach that takes Karl’s place.

The assumption is that Divac will have heavy input into the hiring of the next coach. Not that Ranadive will be left out of process but he will probably allow the experts to do their job in order to avoid another hiring fiasco.

The coaching merry-go-round has become a joke in the national press that covers the NBA. Ryen Rusillo   of ESPN Radio spent almost five minutes decrying the coaching situation in Sacramento as ridiculous during his nationwide show on Wednesday. That is just one example of ridicule that is being flung at the Kings organization’s inability to hire and retain a head coach.

Hiring the right coach for this situation is critical. First, the coach must be able to adapt to the direction of the team as set by Divac who is said to want a more defensive approach on the floor. Secondly, the new head man (or woman) must be able to adapt to the available personnel. Finally, DeMarcus Cousins must buy in on whoever the Kings want to hire. That is not a good thing for management but they have empowered Cousins and will have to obtain his cooperation to make it work for the next coach.

Some of the names that are being floated are coaches with experience. Ex-Houston coach Kevin McHale, ex-Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek, former Bulls and Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, ex-Cleveland coach David Blatt, former Warriors head man Mark Jackson and Charlotte assistant coach Patrick Ewing have been mentioned as possible candidates for the job. The search will also include top assistant coaches from around the league who are looking for their first job as a head coach.

The names of Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks have come up but both are expected to take higher profile jobs.

The interview process is expected to take some time because the Kings cannot afford to make another major hiring mistake as they move into the new arena.

Reports have Karl being fired by Kings on Thursday

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by Charlie O. Mallonee

The Sacramento Bee and other news organizations are reporting that Kings head coach George Karl will be fired on Thursday when the team returns home from Houston. Sports Radio Service’s Kings Podcast predicted that Karl would not be retained as head coach based on his statements in the pregame and post-game news conferences on Saturday.

Karl has been on the “hot seat” since last summer when he sent up some trial balloons about possible trades for All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins. Reports had majority owner Vivek Ranadive wanting to dismiss Karl at that time.

Karl was also rumored to be close to termination in November following a confrontation with Cousins in the locker room after a game. Karl wanted Cousins suspended for two games but was overruled by vice president and general manager Vlade Divac.

Cousins was suspended for one game without pay in early March following a tirade during a timeout aimed at Karl (stop me if you are seeing a pattern here).

That fact is Cousins was against the Karl hiring from the beginning. Reports had Cousins “camp” telling management they thought Karl was not a good fit for the team and Cousins. The chances of a working relationship between coach and player was doomed from the beginning.

Karl is still owed $6.5-million from the 4-year contract he signed in 2015. He will be the fourth head coach to be fired by the Kings under the Vivek Ranadive ownership group.

League sources – speaking under the condition of anonymity – have indicated the Kings are interested in several people to take Karl’s place. The usual suspects of Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks have been named and are reportedly not interested in Sacramento.

Other names that are being floated include  Vinny Del Negro, Boston Celtics  assistant Jay Larranaga, ex-Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt, Atlanta Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson, ex-Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, Charlotte Hornets assistant Patrick Ewing and ex-Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale. Ironically, Del Negro was in Sacramento on Saturday night for the Kings final game in the old arena.

No matter who the Kings settle on as their next head coach, if DeMarcus Cousins does not buy in on the choice then Sacramento had better looking for their fifth head coach. That is a horrible situation to be in but the Kings created the problem when they allowed Cousins to become more important than his coach.