Kings look to stay hot vs. Love-less 'Wolves

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Kings look to stay hot vs. Love-less 'Wolves

It's been six seasons since the Minnesota Timberwolves had a winning record after 25 games. If they are to achieve that feat again, they must do it without their best player.

Looking to move above .500 with a third straight victory, the Timberwolves will be without suspended star Kevin Love on Tuesday night when they host the Sacramento Kings, who are riding a season-high three-game winning streak.

Sacramento (9-15) is coming off wins over the Trail Blazers, Warriors and Hornets the past three games; its highest margin of victory was eight.

NEWS: T'Wolves star Love suspended vs. Kings

Minnesota (12-12), likewise, is coming off consecutive victories over New Jersey and Houston, and is in position to surpass the .500 mark after 25 games for the first time since 2005-06. The Timberwolves have averaged 106.8 points while winning three of four overall.

"It does feel good to be .500 right now, but we still want to come out and keep this thing going in the right direction," Love said.

The Timberwolves must do that without Love, who will serve the first of his two-game suspension for stomping on Houston's Luis Scola as the Rocket forward was lying on the floor during Minnesota's 100-91 victory Saturday. Though Love (25.0 points, 13.7 rebounds per game) has grown frustrated because he believes game officials have failed to consistently police some overly physical play this season, he apologized to Scola both after the game and in a statement issued by the team on Monday.

"I don't want to be known for that," said Love, who admitted he needs to do a better job of handling his emotions. "I want to be known as a stand-up guy who happened to make a mistake with a size 19 shoe and just move on. So everybody knows there were no ill intentions there."

As Love tries to move on from this incident, his teammates must go forward without him. Love had 33 points and 11 rebounds in Minnesota's 99-86 home victory over Sacramento on Jan. 16. Luke Ridnour added 25 points with nine assists in that contest.

Ridnour scored 22 while backcourt mate Ricky Rubio added 13 with 11 assists against the Rockets.

"We're just keeping our composure this year," said Ridnour, averaging a career-high 12.3 points.

The Timberwolves also will have forward Michael Beasley and backup guard J.J. Barea on the floor for this contest after the pair missed last month's win over the Kings.

The Kings had one of its lowest scoring games of the season at Minnesota, but has averaged 103.0 points during its current three-game winning streak.

The Kings shot 47.4 percent while overcoming an 18-point deficit to win 100-92 at New Orleans on Monday. DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points with 19 rebounds and Tyreke Evans scored 11 of his 20 in the fourth quarter as Sacramento outscored the lowly Hornets 31-14 in the final period.

Sacramento snapped a four-game road skid to improve to 3-11 away from home.

"We're just playing great basketball right now," Evans said. "We want to keep that up and try to be in the race for the playoffs."

Cousins, who has totaled 49 points with 39 rebounds in the last two games, could benefit from Love's absence even though he's combined for 34 points and 18 boards in four career games versus Minnesota.

Evans has averaged 23.4 points and 7.2 assists in the last five games, but he was held to nine on 3-of-11 shooting while posting 10 assists and eight rebounds at Minnesota last month.

NBA Gameday: Who on the Kings will defend Antetokounmpo?

NBA Gameday: Who on the Kings will defend Antetokounmpo?

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings return home to Golden 1 Center Wednesday night to face the upstart Milwaukee Bucks. After three games on the road, the Kings will play one in front of the Sacramento crowd before heading back out on the road Friday when they face the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.

Dave Joerger and his young core of Kings have gone 3-10 since the All-Star break, but they compete on a nightly basis and are showing promise. Rookies Skal Labissiere, Buddy Hield and Georgios Papagiannis have each had breakout games and second-year big Willie Cauley-Stein is posting 13.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 32.5 minutes since the big roster shake up in late February.

The Bucks are 9-2 over their previous 11 games, surging into the playoff conversation after a rough start to the season. Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the way for a young Milwaukee team that has had to adjust on the fly after another devastating injury to forward Jabari Parker.

OPENING LINE:
Bucks by 5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
? vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo -- It’s the same question we asked when these two teams met in the first two weeks of the 2016-17 season, only it’s a little more difficult to answer. Rudy Gay is done for the year, Matt Barnes is a Warriors and Omri Casspi plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves. What is left at the small forward position is a collection of undersized wings that will face one of the league’s best young small forwards. At 6-foot-11, Antetokounmpo plays like a guard, but can put you on a poster in the blink of an eye. If the Greek Freak gets loose, it’s going to be a long night for Sacramento.

WHERE THEY STAND:
Kings: 27-43, third place in Pacific

Bucks: 35-35, third place in Central

INJURY REPORT:
Kings: SF Tyreke Evans (ankle) will play, C Kosta Koufos (rest) is out, PG Ty Lawson (rest) is out, SG Malachi Richardson (hamstring) is out, F Rudy Gay (ruptured left Achilles) is out.

Bucks: F Jabari Parker (knee) out, F Michael Beasley (knee) out.

SERIES HISTORY:
Milwaukee leads the season series 1-0 over Sacramento after beating the Kings 117-91 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Nov. 5. The Kings own a 28-27 lead over the Bucks during the Sacramento-era.

QUOTE:
“I’m blessed and excited and happy to have this opportunity to have a beautiful young baby girl in my life right now. It changes a lot for me right now. I’m definitely in a state of shock and at a loss for words. At this point, I’m just like, man, I’m really a father. It’s a dream come true.” -Ben McLemore on the birth of his first child, Teagan Joyce McLemore

Ben McLemore returns after birth of his daughter: 'Dream come true'

Ben McLemore returns after birth of his daughter: 'Dream come true'

SACRAMENTO -- Ben McLemore was noticeably missing from the Kings three-game road trip. The fourth-year guard has rarely been unavailable for a game during his time in Sacramento, but he stayed home so he could attend the birth of his first child.

The proud papa gushed at practice Tuesday afternoon as he announced the birth of Teagan Joyce McLemore to the media.

“I’m blessed and excited and happy to have this opportunity to have a beautiful young baby girl in my life right now,” the 24-year-old shooting guard said. “It changes a lot for me right now. I’m definitely in a state of shock and at a loss for words. At this point, I’m just like, man, I’m really a father. It’s a dream come true.”

Drafted with the seventh overall selection of the 2013 NBA Draft, McLemore has played his entire career in a Kings uniform, including 215 starts. He came to Sacramento as a 20-year-old kid from St. Louis and he’s grown up a lot in his time with the Kings.

With just 12 games remaining in the season, McLemore’s future with the club is in question.

“I’m really not even focused on that,” McLemore said about his future. “I’ll let my agent, Rich Paul, and my circle kind of handle all of that and keep me up to date on things like that.”  

If Sacramento chooses to extend a $5.4 million qualifying offer to the wing, he will enter the summer as a restricted free agent, which gives the Kings the opportunity to match any offer. If they decline the qualifying offer, McLemore becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any NBA club.

At times this season, McLemore has been lost in the shuffle at the shooting guard spot. He’s had bright moments, but also challenges as the Kings brought in Arron Afflalo, Garrett Temple, Malachi Richardson and Buddy Hield to compete for minutes at his position.

On the season, McLemore is averaging a career-low 7.2 points per game in just 18.2 minutes a night, but he’s shooting 39.4 percent from behind the arc. Since the start of February, McLemore is shooting 51.3 percent from 3-point range, but consistent minutes have been tough to come by.

“I’m just going out there and playing free,” McLemore said of his recent success. “I’m not worried about anything. I’m just going out there and playing my game. Not thinking about it too much, just letting the game come to me.”

Nothing is certain moving forward for McLemore. His focus is on finishing the season strong and of course, that new baby girl.