The Minnesota Timberwolves have alternated wins and losses each of their last eight games. If they are going to keep that streak going and bounce back from their most recent defeat, the team will need to defend the paint better than it has recently.
That figures to be a difficult assignment Wednesday night against the visiting Sacramento Kings, who just happen to have one of the league's best low-post players.
Minnesota lost 104-86 at San Antonio on Sunday in part because of its inability to protect the basket. The Spurs scored 46 points in the paint, continuing a season-long trend for the Timberwolves. On the year, they allow 45.8 points per game in the paint, among the most in the NBA.
Against the Kings, the team will have to deal with center DeMarcus Cousins, who scored 31 points and grabbed 13 boards in Sacramento's 116-92 loss at Indiana on Tuesday. The 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins ranks among the top 10 in the league in both points (23.5) and rebounds (11.6) per game, and has 24 double-doubles on the season.
"Cousins is really talented. A really talented player. He's really putting up numbers this year," Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman told the team's official website. "We know it's going to be a test... I mean really it's about how we play, you can't look at anybody's record. We are trying to establish something."
The Timberwolves (18-19) have their own low-post threat in Kevin Love, who is averaging 25.5 points and 13.1 rebounds per game, leading the league with 31 double-doubles. He's been helped out of late by Nikola Pekovic, who has shaken off some early-season struggles to average 22.9 points and 10.3 boards in the last 12 games.
Love, though, struggled against the Spurs, scoring 14 points - his second-lowest total of the season - on 3-of-14 shooting. Pekovic picked up the slack by going 10 of 15 from the field for 22 points.
"(The Spurs) were very physical with Kevin Love everywhere he moved,'' Adelman said. ''We have to figure out a way to help him out a little bit, see if we can't have an answer for that.''
Sacramento (13-23) had its season-best three-game winning streak snapped Tuesday, dropping to 4-10 on the road, where it gives up 107.4 points per game. The Kings shot 42.4 percent while allowing the Pacers to make 54.9 percent of their shots.
Coach Mike Malone lamented his team's 15 turnovers that resulted in 25 points for Indiana.
"To win on the road in the NBA against a great team, you cannot have the amount of turnovers we had," he said. "It's a great learning experience for our team, and the great thing about the NBA is that we have another challenge awaiting us (Wednesday) night in Minnesota."
The Kings have struggled in the Twin Cities lately, losing three straight and five of their past seven visits.
Minnesota will be welcoming back rookie Shabazz Muhammad, who was recalled from the NBA Development League on Monday. The 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft has scored only 12 points in 11 games this season.