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Cauley-Stein says he made it hard on Towns, but ‘Little Bro’ was nearly perfect

Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, center, watches as Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, left, steals the ball Monday during a 118-100 win at Golden 1 Center. At right is Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng.
Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, center, watches as Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, left, steals the ball Monday during a 118-100 win at Golden 1 Center. At right is Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Karl-Anthony Towns had a solid stat line Monday.

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ All-Star center shot 9 of 10, made all eight of his free throws and finished with a game-high 26 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks in a 118-100 victory over the Kings at Golden 1 Center.

Despite the numbers, Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein doesn’t think the game was too easy for Towns.

“Nah, I think past games (were) easy, he got to his spots, he got to the free-throw line,” Cauley-Stein said. “Today he had to work to get to spots and work to get to the free-throw line. That’s all I can really ask for. I can’t really do much but get in his way.”

He fouled out getting in Towns’ way, picking up his sixth foul on a blocking call trying to cut off a drive, and finished with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Cauley-Stein, who was drafted sixth overall in the 2015 NBA draft, five picks behind his former college teammate, said it’s always fun to play against another Kentucky player. Towns was a freshman and Cauley-Stein a junior on a Wildcats squad that went 38-1, the lone loss coming to Wisconsin in the Final Four.

The Kings drafted Cauley-Stein because they believed he’d be an elite defender. He said he tried to make Towns think more as part of his strategy to make things tough on him.

“It’s hard,” Cauley-Stein said. “A guy like that, he’s going to get every call, get to his spots. So it’s like you’re not only playing against him, you’ve got to play strategically, too, against the refs. Just little niches.”

The last time these teams met, Towns had 29 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three blocks in a 111-106 victory Feb. 11 at Minnesota.

Cauley-Stein feels Monday’s game was tougher on Towns, even though he shot 10 of 17 in the last meeting. Cauley-Stein said it wasn’t discouraging to see Towns’ solid shooting numbers.

“He’s going to score, they give it to him every time,” Cauley-Stein said. “He’s going to get his numbers. It’s just how difficult can I make it, like you’re not going to get an easy 20-ball tonight.”

Cauley-Stein has said before that All-Star caliber players will put up good stat lines based on numerous opportunities, so he does what he can to be a deterrent.

“That’s my outlook on playing against dudes like that,” Cauley-Stein said. “You’re going to get your numbers because you get the ball every time, but it’s going to be hard numbers. ... That’s the mentality I’m trying to bring.”

Cauley-Stein said he’s learning more every time he plays against Towns, or “Little Bro,” as he called him.

“I played him different today than I did lat game, and that’s the NBA,” Cauley-Stein said. “That’s how you know you’re getting better is if you make the adjustments. K.T. is one of the best in the game right now, so it’s always a fun matchup.”

Cauley-Stein said Towns is a “real big supporter” of his and that Towns will sometimes give him pointers during games.

“I’m like ‘You know we’re playing against each other, right?’” Cauley-Stein said. “That’s just the love factor coming form UK and all that. He is just trying to help me get to that next level, too. So it’s always fun and good to play against him.”

Skal Labissiere scored 20 points to lead the Kings (18-42), who have lost four in a row and 8 of 10. Andrew Wiggins had 22 points for the Timberwolves (38-26).

Sacramento Kings players and coaches bowled and played with fans during the Sacramento Kings Foundation Annual bowling tourney to supports their work in sustainability, health, and education programming in the region at Punch Bowl Social Club.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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