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Wolves' worst foe in the Western Conference is likely themselves

With their 124-120 overtime victory over the Timberwolves, the Kings became the only team to win a season series against the Wolves and the only team to win twice at Target Center this season. Yes, Anthony Edwards left that game for personal reasons at halftime, but the Kings were also down their best guard in De'Aaron Fox and still won on the Wolves' home floor.

If you project to the future, the Kings were the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference entering Saturday, and the Wolves were first. It's possible the teams meet again in the first round of the playoffs. Should the Wolves be concerned that Sacramento presents a matchup problem for them? Jaden McDaniels shot that down most emphatically.

"I really don't worry about them when they come here," McDaniels said. "I feel pretty confident we could beat them four times in a row if we had to play them."

McDaniels' comment underscores what has become a truth when the Wolves lose this season: They beat themselves more often than another team out-executes them when both teams play their best. If the Wolves operate at the peak of their powers, there aren't many teams in the Western Conference that stand a good chance of winning.

"For the most part, our halftime speeches and in-game speeches are: 'All this stuff is self-inflicted,' " guard Mike Conley said. "Things that we can easily change, and the frustrating part is that we know it. But the great part is that it can easily be fixed within house."

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If you look back at most of the losses the Wolves have had the last two months, every one of them boils down to something the Wolves didn't do as opposed to something their opponents did. There were multiple fourth-quarter collapses (plus a mysterious third-quarter collapse against Milwaukee) and games the Wolves could have won if their late-game execution were better. On Friday, the Wolves seemed poised to come back in the fourth quarter except for a few backbreaking sequences when they didn't secure a defensive rebound twice in the final minutes that led to two Malik Monk threes, then they had a few defensive breakdowns that allowed Monk to get open for two more threes.

The last time a team took the floor and just flat out beat the Wolves was Jan. 3, when the Pelicans with Zion Williamson beat the Wolves 117-106 in a game New Orleans led by as much as 24. If you're looking for a potential bad matchup for the Wolves in the playoffs, especially in the first round, look at the Pelicans, who beat the Wolves both times Williamson played, and in both of those games, the Pelicans looked like the better team. The Kings also have the distinction of beating the Wolves twice now, and they are also responsible for one of the losses the Wolves stood little chance of winning back on Nov. 24, when Sacramento won 124-111. Despite that, nearly everyone who spoke after Friday's game didn't think the Kings posed a matchup issue for the Wolves.

Here was coach Chris Finch: "We like how we match up against them. … I don't really know what to make of [Sacramento beating the Wolves twice at home]. They have an identity. They play to it every single night. We know what works and what doesn't work against them. Tonight, I think our slow start and the offensive rebounding were the things that sunk us."

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Then Rudy Gobert said his ability to guard Domantas Sabonis one-on-one prevents Sacramento from doing what it wants to do on offense.

"I actually think we match really well with them," Gobert said. "In Sacramento, it was a really good game for us. The two games at home were for some reason different."

The Wolves still have three games against defending champion Denver to see how they match up against them, but they feel confident about their ability to limit Nikola Jokic's superpower of finding open by using Karl-Anthony Towns to guard Jokic while Gobert roams the paint.

They feel like they should have beaten the No. 2 seed Thunder 3-1 this season while they've won both matchups against the Clippers, with No. 3 coming Sunday at home. One team they haven't shown much against is Phoenix, who they play twice down the stretch and lost to in a blowout on the tail end of a back-to-back on the road in November.

There isn't a matchup the Wolves feel bad about up and down the Western Conference. If they lose in the playoffs, it's likely because their old bad habits of offensive stagnation and turnovers allow other teams to get in transition and sap the Wolves of their superpower: half-court defense. Or maybe moments of immaturity and lack of composure rear their heads at the wrong time. Their worst opponent will be themselves.

"We know that when we're able to be consistent in what we do, when we execute the game plan and when we share the ball offensively; when we do all those things, we play at a very high level," Gobert said.