MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Sacramento Kings were ending a grueling stretch of five games in seven nights with a long back-to-back from New Orleans to Minnesota.
Getting 66 points from the bench helps overcome tough travel.
Buddy Hield tied a career high with 22 points, going 4 of 6 from 3-point range, and the Kings’ reserves dominated Minnesota’s in a 123-117 victory on Saturday night.
Reserve point guard Ty Lawson had 21 points and 11 assists. Langston Galloway added 17 points and Aaron Afflalo scored 16 to lead the Kings’ 66-26 advantage in bench points.
“I commend our second group coming in and giving us that energy because we really needed, especially on a back-to-back and the stretch that we’re on,” center Willie Cauley-Stein said. “That was much-needed for us because it could have easily went the other way and got real ugly.”
The Kings recovered after losing by 28 points a night earlier at New Orleans against former Kings star DeMarcus Cousins. Sacramento shot a season-high 56.4 percent to win for the sixth time in 15 games since trading Cousins on Feb. 21.
“It’s a struggle playing five games in seven nights,” coach Dave Joerger said. “This was tough. It was a good test for our young guys to mentally fight through.”
Andrew Wiggins scored 32 points for Minnesota, which had won five of its previous six homes games. A game after scoring a career-high 33 points, Ricky Rubio had 11 points on just 1-of-10 shooting, and added 13 assists.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves.
“We didn’t do what we needed to do,” Towns said. “It’s as simple as that. We didn’t keep them out of the paint. We also let them hit too many 3s. That comes from ball pressure and doing the little things in our defensive scheme.”
The Kings looked like weary road travelers early, as Minnesota had another quick start with 31 points in the first quarter. Sacramento had nine turnovers in the first and shot 43.8 percent.
The bench got the Kings back in the game and then Sacramento took control with a 26-9 run at the end of the third and start of the fourth. Lawson scored 12 points in the second half and was 11 of 14 from the free-throw line in the game.
Kings: Tyreke Evans, Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple were ruled out for planned rest. … Cauley-Stein had 15 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season — all since the All-Star break. … Sacramento is 15-25 on the road, including two wins in Minnesota.
Timberwolves: G Zach LaVine was chosen the Flip Saunders Legacy Award recipient. The award, named after Minnesota’s former coach, recognizes excellence in community service and is voted on by the team’s players. … Rubio had his third straight double-double and 22nd of the season. … The Wolves are 19-20 at home this season.
Given a chance for more minutes since being traded for Cousins, Hield has responded. The rookie entered the game averaging 13.9 points and shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 41.0 percent from 3 in his 19 games with Sacramento.
Saturday was his fifth 20-point performance and third with the Kings.
“I think that’s Buddy Hield’s best game as a pro,” Joerger said. “Whether he made shots or not, he’s learning to do the other things; when we help, when we don’t. Some of it is just learning to be a pro and some of it is learning how we do it in Sacramento. I thought he did a really nice job.”
Minnesota won nine of 13 games in February and early March and seemed to be adjusting to coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive approach. The Wolves held opponents under 100 points in seven of the 13 games.
The 123 points scored by Sacramento was the fourth time an opponent reached that mark in the past eight games.
“We’ve got to keep working at it,” Thibodeau said. “I thought our starters got us off to a good start and our bench came in and we had reckless fouls. We had some tough shots. … We’ve got to straighten that out.”
Kings: Return home to play the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.
Timberwolves: Finish the homestand on Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers, a makeup of the March 6 postponement because of condensation on the court.
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