Kings coach Mike Brown sounds ‘like a broken record’ after loss to Minnesota Timberwolves

Mike Brown picked up a reporter’s recording device to open his postgame press conference Saturday night in the Target Center and placed it back down on the table in front of him.

“I feel like I need to get one of these because I sound like a broken record,” the Kings’ head coach said, “when it comes to our defense.”

Brown had just watched his 23rd-ranked defensive team allow the Minnesota Timberwolves backcourt to ease into a slew of 3-point shots, ruining the start of Sacramento’s seven-game road trip with a 117-110 loss. Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell together shot 12 of 16 from beyond the arc, scoring 34 and 25 points, respectively.

Combined with a down night from the Kings’ offense that entered the game ranked No. 1 in the NBA, Sacramento simply couldn’t overcome the explosive scoring performances from Edwards and Russell despite De’Aaron Fox going off for 21 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter.

“Our intensity and awareness level has to go up,” Brown said.

Russell came out of the gate hot, scoring 23 points in the first half while being perfect from the floor, including making all seven of his 3s. He managed just two points after halftime, but that’s when Edwards began to heat up. The No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft scored 16 points in the third quarter with 10 more in the fourth.

Both players got the shots they wanted without feeling the Kings’ defense, Brown said, while Minnesota shot 52.5% from the floor and 45.9% from 3-point range. Backup big man Naz Reid scored 14 points in just over 13 minutes, leading Brown to say, “he flat-out kicked our a--.”

“(We need to) be just a bit more aggressive,” Fox said of his team’s defense. “I mean, we can’t let teams just run their stuff, get to their spots and shoot the ball right over us. You don’t want to pick up fouls, but you want to be as physical as possible.”

Edwards shooting right over the Kings’ defense essentially put the game away in the fourth quarter. Sacramento hung tough — while also benefiting from Timberwolves mistakes — by making it a four-point game with 37.4 seconds remaining on a Fox dunk. Edwards got the ball, isolated on rookie Keegan Murray, stepped back and rose for a 25-foot 3. It hit the bottom of the net and put the game out of reach.

It put a knife in another strong fourth-quarter performance from Fox, who started 2 of 12 from the floor and left the game with 8:31 remaining after picking up his fifth foul. Fox re-entered a minute later and scored 19 points over the final 7:35.

“Offensively, I shot the same shots,” said Fox. “I think they were just going in late.”

The Kings, who lost at home on Wednesday to the Raptors, appeared to gain their footing in the second quarter. They erased an eight-point first-quarter deficit to take a 59-57 lead into halftime. They had six dunks in the second quarter including three straight to open the frame. Then Edwards blitzed them to start the third when Sacramento was outscored 33-22. It was a deficit they couldn’t overcome in the fourth.

Center Domantas Sabonis battled big man Rudy Gobert for most of the night, finishing with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He had just three turnovers after averaging nearly seven over his last four contests. The Kings allowed the Timberwolves to score 14 second-chance points.

“Obviously, offensive rebounds hurt us,” Sabonis said. “And some assignments we missed, but overall, I don’t think it was that bad, we just got to get back to finding our way on offense.”

Brown, a coach with a background in defense, has continued to preach improving on that side of the ball all season. The message coming into the game was about trying to find ways for the defense to get better because the team couldn’t count on its league-leading offense night after night.

Saturday was a good example. Harrison Barnes, Kevin Huerter and Keegan Murray combined to shoot 8 of 27 while the Kings shot 27.3% from distance on the night.

“Everything we’ve done when we won, it’s been 135-128,” Brown said. “That is not sustainable. That’s fool’s gold. I’m not talking bad about our offense. I like it. But that is fool’s gold if we’re going to think as a team and organization we’re going to just beat teams by outscoring them. That is not going to happen. Especially come playoff time.

“Somehow, some way, I have to find combinations of players that can score and are willing to get stops for us.”

The Kings made some roster news after the game, saying they declined to bring back reserve swingman PJ Dozier on a third 10-day contract. His second deal expired on Saturday. Dozier will be replaced by Deonte Burton from the G League Stockton Kings.

Dozier appeared in four of the Kings’ last nine games, mostly in garbage time. Burton (6-4, 240) will join the roster in time for Monday’s game, also in Minnesota. He’s averaged 12.5 points per game in 38.4 minutes for Stockton while hitting 45.2% of his 3-point attempts.