Playing the worst team in the Western Conference would seem like a simple remedy for the Kings’ recent on-court issues.
But nothing is simple lately for the Kings, who found themselves in a struggle with the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.
With their two leading scorers having fouled out in the fourth quarter, the Kings put together enough offense and defense to come away with a 110-107 win Thursday night at Target Center.
The Kings had lost the first two games of this four-game trip in listless fashion, including a season-worst 22-point defeat at Boston on Wednesday.
Never miss a local story.
And even though the Kings matched a season high by shooting 64.9 percent in the first half, they led just 60-58 because their defense was passive, as it has been lately.
It’s the formula that allowed the struggling New York Knicks to force overtime last week and threatened to keep the Timberwolves, a team on a nine-game losing streak, around long enough to win a game.
The Kings found enough fortitude on defense in the second half, holding Minnesota to 40.9 percent shooting after halftime, to avoid a humbling defeat, but it wasn’t easy.
“We picked up our intensity,” said guard Darren Collison. “Our urgency the last few games hasn’t been there for a while. I thought (Thursday) we were better than most nights in the past. It was just good to get a win.”
The Kings had to win without DeMarcus Cousins or Rudy Gay late in the game.
Gay fouled out with 4:21 to play. Cousins fouled out with 2:46 left.
That left the likes of Jason Thompson and Collison to make the plays needed to pull out the win.
Thompson, who lost his starting job and didn’t play at Boston, hit a 20-foot jumper that gave the Kings a 106-102 lead with 1:47 to play.
Collison’s two free throws with 2.5 seconds left were the final points of the game as Troy Daniels missed a three-pointer that would have tied the score just before the buzzer.
“It was tremendous,” said Kings coach Tyrone Corbin. “Just to get a win under our belts after the last couple, especially the game (in Boston). To finish the game without DeMarcus and Rudy on the floor, the guys showed a lot of resolve to win this game. It was good to see.”
The Kings had talked about not using excuses and finding a way to win but had not been successful doing that most nights while losing nine of their previous 11 games before Thursday.
In Boston, the referees drew the Kings’ ire, but even with Cousins and Gay out, the Kings remained focused enough to win Thursday.
That’s been a struggle since coach Michael Malone was fired Dec. 14.
“I think it’s a step forward,” Cousins said. “It shows that we can play through adversity, which we did (Thursday). I think it’s a good sign.”
The Kings (14-19) are also still playing through change.
Sacramento used its seventh different starting lineup of the season and third in as many games, with Derrick Williams making his first start of the season at power forward.
Ryan Hollins, who started there for Thompson on Wednesday, didn’t play against the Timberwolves.
Williams had 17 points against the team that drafted him second overall in2011 .
“Coach is trying to find what lineups work,” Williams said. “(Thursday) I thought we played pretty well. We had a lot of spurts where we played good defense, but then we had a lot of spurts where we let them back in the game.”
The Kings shot 54 percent to overcome their 20 turnovers and a big game from rookie Andrew Wiggins, who led Minnesota with 27 points.
“Regardless of what you’re going through, you have to find a way to win the next game to get going,” Collison said.
The Kings hope Thursday’s game is the game that does that.