SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Although the youthful Minnesota Timberwolves are looking toward the future, they are still focused on finishing this disappointing season strong.
Gorgui Dieng had 18 points and 13 rebounds, Zach LaVine and Nemanja Bjelica also scored 18 points, and the Timberwolves beat the Sacramento Kings 105-97 on Thursday night.
LaVine scored all his points in the opening half, when the Timberwolves established a quick tempo and went into halftime with a 58-51 lead. The athletic LaVine made four 3-pointers and had an exciting breakaway dunk.
“The win was nice. But the main thing for us is building for next season,” LaVine said. “We want to be in the playoffs next season, so right now we are playing hard and training ourselves for that.”
The Timberwolves led for most of the game in following up their victory at Golden State by sweeping the four-game series against the Kings for the first time in franchise history.
The Kings were a long way from resembling Golden State. Kings coach George Karl rested DeMarcus Cousins, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, and Rajon Rondo, who leads the NBA in assists.
“The key was we respected Sacramento even without their important players,” said Bjelica, who made four 3-pointers and had a career-high point total. “We want to try and win every game and finish this season strong.”
Karl-Anthony Towns had his 50th double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Andrew Wiggins scored 15 points for the Timberwolves.
“He (Towns) is very good, he’s very solid, he’s got a lot of intangibles to his game and he’s so young,” said Kosta Koufos, who picked up three quick fouls in the opening quarter while guarding the No. 1 pick. “He’s going to have a very, very bright future ahead of himself.”
Darren Collison had 19 points and six assists in the Kings’ third straight loss. Quincy Acy scored 17 points, Willie Cauley-Stein had 15 and Rudy Gay finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Timberwolves were coming off their most impressive victory of the season, rallying from a 17-point deficit Tuesday to defeat the Warriors in overtime. It was only Golden State’s second loss this season at home and prevented the Warriors from getting their 70th win.
The Wolves and Kings have grown accustomed to playing meaningless games near the end of the regular season. Minnesota has missed the playoffs 12 years in row and Sacramento hasn’t been in the playoffs for 10 straight seasons.
FITTING GOODBYE FOR SACRAMENTO’S ARENA
After 28 seasons, there is one final game remaining at Sleep Train Arena. The Kings will face Oklahoma City on Saturday evening, no doubt playing before an emotional, raucous sellout crowd that will likely have mixed emotions about the curtain coming down on the aging arena.
Next season the Kings will play in a downtown arena, the Golden 1 Center. Approximately 50 former players and coaches are expected to attend the final game.
“Sacramento has tremendous memories. I mean the (Rick) Adelman years and the intensity of the Arco building have always been difficult,” Karl said. “This is more of a college atmosphere, college loyalty, and college love than most NBA cities. Saturday will be a moment that the basketball fan will feel good about. Even me, though I’ve only been here for 15 months. It’s historically a part of my career.”
Timberwolves: Minnesota entered the game with a 13-26 record both home and away. … Kevin Garnett (sore knee) and Nikola Pekovic (sore ankle) remain out indefinitely. … LaVine had an extremely efficient first half, making 6 of 8 shots. … Ricky Rubio took zero shots in nearly 22 minutes. He had five turnovers and seven assists … After scoring a career-high 35 points against the Warriors, Shabazz Muhammad had 10 points.
Kings: Besides Cousins and Rondo, the Kings also played without Marco Belinelli (sore foot) and Omri Casspi (strained hamstring). … The Kings used their 32nd starting lineup this season. … It was the 12th time that the Kings were held under 100 points at home.
Timberwolves: At Portland on Saturday.
Kings: Host Oklahoma City on Saturday
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.