While it’s true that the NBA is a global league, with players coming from Australia, Turkey and all points in between, and a league peppered with guys from tiny colleges, such Steph Curry (Davidson) and George Hill (IUPUI), just to name two, the majority of its talent comes from Basketball Factories. These are multi-million dollar squads that launder talent and shoe money through “institutions of higher learning” in order to entertain the masses every March and produce the bulk of players populating the top, middle, and bottom of NBA rosters. Why, just take a look at the Wolves and Kings, for instance. Kansas (Andrew Wiggins, Cole Aldrich, Frank Mason), Duke (Tyus Jones, Harry Giles, Amile Jefferson), North Carolina (Vince Carter, Justin Jackson), Michigan State (Z-Bo) and Louisville (Gorgui Dieng) are all represented.
The best-represented Basketball Factory in Sunday’s game was the University of Kentucky; John Calipari helped mold the Wolves’ leading scorer (Karl-Anthony Towns),and the Kings’ leading scorer (De’Aaron Fox), center (Willie Cauley-Stein) and another promising role player (Skal Labissiere, who’s missing time due to a shoulder injury). In the very early going, it was Towns and Cauley-Stein, teammates on the 2014-15 squad that went 38-1, going back and forth, playfully jawing at one another as they went. But soon, another Wildcat asserted his presence – De’Aaron Fox, who dropped 14 in the opening frame alone, victimizing the Wolves’ poor transition defense and feasting when Jamal Crawford attempted to stay in front of him.
Both Fox and Towns cooled off in the middle periods as the two teams see-sawed between narrow Kings leads and the Wolves’ pushback. Minnesota recovered from being down 10 early in the second quarter to lead by 2 at the break, capping off the half with a very nice Butler-to-Gibson feed for an easy bucket:
Jimmy Butler making cuts off the inbounds like he’s Stefon Diggs. pic.twitter.com/2hpByjn1mR
— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 12, 2018
The third quarter saw the Wolves’ small lead evaporate quickly – they found themselves down by as much as 7 in the frame. A balanced Kings attack, led by Kosta Koufos, Jakarr Sampson, and (especially) Bogdan Bogdanovic, helped Sacramento take a 7-point lead near the end of the frame. Minnesota’s offense was shaky; Andrew Wiggins turned the ball over three times, and the Wolves as a team went 0-for-4 from downtown, and only got to the line 4 times.
Everything turned around in the 4th, thanks, primarily, to Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT had 9 points, 2 boards, and 4 assists and was a plus-7. Minnesota got into the bonus early and wound up shooting 18 (!!!) free throws in the final 12 minutes, helping them ice the game. Though it wasn’t easy, as De’Aaron Fox kept Sacramento right in it:
🦊 beats the clock! pic.twitter.com/WrbIm203sU
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) February 12, 2018
It would have been nice for the Wolves to take care of business in a more neat and tidy fashion – the game was right there for the taking in the final minute – but a win is a win. It’s kind of fun to watch the Kentucky guys go at it – especially KAT and WCS. Towns won the battle tonight, pretty decisively.
Two more games to go until the All-Star break.
A few other odds and ends from this one:
- Vince Carter had 3 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists, and was a plus-14 in 13 minutes. I hope he plays until he’s 50.
- Towns’ final line: 29-8-6 with 3 blocks. In 5 February games he’s shooting 62% from the floor and 63% from three.
- Jim Petersen was signing the praises of Bogdan Bogdanovic during the game, and I’ve gotta say, I agree. Confident, hustles, decent shooter, knows how to play. He and De’Aaron Fox could be a very dynamic backcourt pairing for awhile. Sacramento is still a long ways off from being good, but they’ve got something working in those two, at least.
- Very balanced attack by the Wolves – all five starters wound up in double figures, and so did Jamal Crawford off the bench.
- Nemanja Bjelica is doing too much pump-faking.
- Gorgui looks kind of broken at the moment. He came into the game averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds on 59% shooting over his past 6 games, an encouraging sign, but his stints off the bench never seem to go smoothly. He was short on his jumper tonight and was getting worked on the glass, too.
- Cole Aldrich was a healthy scratch for the 47th time in 59 games. He’s played a total of 28 minutes this season. This is the easiest $7.3 million anyone has ever earned. For what it’s worth, he seems like a great teammate – he’s always leading the bench in cheering – but still.
- I’ll leave you with this kind of mesmerizing play – Jimmy keeping himself and the ball inbounds to preserve the steal:
Jimmy out here playing Twister to make sure he gets the steal pic.twitter.com/0BJ8bPCzbx
— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 12, 2018