The Minnesota Timberwolves are below the Kings in the standings, but watching them inspires a lot more optimism about their prospects.
The young Timberwolves exhibit signs of learning from their mistakes and improving. The veteran Kings continue to repeat the same mistakes, and did so again in losing to Minnesota for the third time this season, 113-104, Wednesday night at Target Center.
The Kings were without All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins (bruised right knee), but their knack for bad stretches of offense, turnovers and bad defense persisted.
The Kings committed 17 turnovers that led to 23 points for Minnesota. The Timberwolves shot 56.3 percent from the field as Sacramento’s season-long defensive problems on the perimeter were evident.
“Same stuff every night,” said Kings guard Darren Collison. “Inconsistency. Not being able to put four quarters together. Not being able to play together as a team defensively and not be there for each other. Same stuff.”
The Kings finished their four-game trip 1-3 and fell to 27-44 on the season.
The Kings long ago abandoned playoff talk and have been focused on playing well before an offseason that’s certain to bring more change.
“It’s not just the players, coaches included,” Collison said. “It’s players, coaches, everybody. It’s not just a particular group. We’ve got to find a way to come together to figure out something to finish this season strong. It’s not about wins and losses at this point, it’s about finishing the season strong and playing the right way.”
Coach George Karl said there are moments in every game where the Kings play well, but inevitably there will be a stretch where Sacramento is its worst enemy.
Losers of eight of their past 10 games, the Kings again were sloppy on offense.
All season, Karl has preached the need to make simple plays. The Kings continue to try to make ill-advised highlights.
“Most of our turnovers that are disturbing are the risky ones,” Karl said. “I don’t know, I call them football passes. You throw a pass that has a 60 percent completion (chance) rather than a 99 percent chance of completion. We have risky opportunities rather than basic, solid opportunities.”
What makes this more frustrating for Karl is that it’s not as if the Kings are being forced into some of their high-risk passes.
“Some nights you fall into risky (situations) because a defense makes you take risks,” Karl said. “But too many times, I think we make our own mental mistakes.”
Rajon Rondo had a team-high six turnovers to go with 25 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.
“It starts with me,” Rondo said. “I’ve got to continue to make the simple pass. Turnovers and offensive rebounds, that’s been the thing that’s been bothering us all season. We still haven’t figured out a way to stop it.”
The Kings added veterans in the offseason to curb basic breakdowns. It hasn’t worked.
“Bad spacing, everybody’s in each others’ way,” Collison said. “Stuff that you learn during training camp. When you have bad spacing, you’re going to have turnovers. It just falls back to the basics and we never really got over the hump of trying to understand spacing and execution.”
The Kings are now 2-9 without Cousins in the lineup this season.
Meanwhile, Minnesota’s young nucleus was impressive. Rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves (23-48) with 26 points. He also had 11 points and four blocks. Second-year players Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine each had 23 points.