The return of Kevin Love has yet to provide the spark that the Minnesota Timberwolves had hoped for despite solid play from the former All-Star.
Love and the Timberwolves aim to halt a five-game losing streak on Tuesday night against the Sacramento Kings.
The 24-year-old Love made an early return from a broken right hand three games ago and has averaged 24.3 points, 14.0 rebounds and 34.7 minutes per contest. However, Minnesota has come up on the losing end in all three games and hasn't won since a 90-82 decision at the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 12.
The Timberwolves had won five of seven to start the season despite playing without Love and point guard Ricky Rubio, who is out following left knee surgery.
Minnesota has lost the first two of a four-game road trip and struggled down the stretch in Saturday's 96-85 loss to the Golden State Warriors. The Timberwolves led by four at the start of the fourth quarter, but missed 11 of 15 shots in the frame and were outscored 26-11. Minnesota shot just 38.4 percent from the floor in the game.
"Not enough, again. We just did not do enough in the fourth quarter," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "You have to finish games. They finished it and we didn't."
Nikola Pekovic scored a team-high 17 points and Love had 15 points and 15 rebounds while hitting just six of his 20 shot attempts. His frustration boiled over in the fourth when he ripped off a protective pad he was wearing on his hand during the game and tossed it to the bench.
Minnesota's trip now takes it to Sacramento to face a Kings team that has won two of three following a five-game slide of its own. After dropping a two- point game on the road to start a home-and-home set with the Utah Jazz on Friday, the Kings rebounded with a 108-97 victory the following night.
Tyreke Evans scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half and added five rebounds and five assists in the victory. Evans is averaging 21.3 ppg in his last four games and helped make up for the loss of leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins, who was ejected with 1:35 left in the third quarter after picking up two quick technical fouls for arguing a call.
Cousins had 14 points and nine rebounds at the time of his exit and Jason Thompson added 16 points and nine boards.
The Kings have topped 100 points in each of their last three games while shooting 52.8 percent from the floor in that time.
"I think this team is always growing and learning, always doing those things, and I think it's just going to be a little process for us. We've shown we can compete and play with everyone. (The) offense is catching up to where the defense was," said Kings head coach Keith Smart.
It was Minnesota that had the defense in the first meeting this season, logging a 92-80 home victory on Nov. 2 to begin its campaign. Both teams shot under 37 percent, but the Timberwolves made 26-of-36 free-throw attempts while the Kings were only 13-of-16 from the line.
The two clubs split their four meetings last season, with each team winning twice at home.