(SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Timberwolves are back home after an unsuccessful four-game road trip and will play four straight as the host, starting with a New Year's Day matchup with the Sacramento Kings.
The Timberwolves are slated to host Utah, Denver and Phoenix as well on the homestand and are just 3-11 in the Twin Cities this season. The T-wolves are winless in their last three games at Target Center.
Minnesota suffered its ninth loss in a row and 15th in 16 tries with Tuesday's 100-94 setback against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City. Shabazz Muhammad scored a career-high 30 points and Andrew Wiggins totaled 21 in the loss, as the Timberwolves fell to 5-25 on the season and blew an 82-72 lead.
Utah would chip away at the lead and eventually went ahead with easy baskets and shots from the foul line. Enes Kanter's layup with less than three minutes to go gave the Jazz a 93-92 lead. Gordon Hayward later sealed the win for the hosts with free throws.
"The last five minutes we had breakdowns," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "We had some of the same situations: we didn't set as good of screens, we missed some free throws late, and we didn't hold screens. Point blank, they got aggressive and we didn't match their intensity. We played more not to lose than (play) to win and we lost more of our aggressiveness."
Minnesota fell to 3-14 when scoring less than 100 points and 1-24 when allowing that many. Still, Saunders feels the Wolves are improving.
"We've actually done some positives things over the last couple weeks," Saunders said after Wednesday's practice. "We just don't have anything to show for it. There are some (good) things that our guys have done over the last couple weeks."
The Wolves are only 2-16 against teams from the West (1-7 at home). They hope to get some key contributors back this month in Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic. The three took part in what Saunders called "dummy drills" in practice this week.
Sacramento is 0-2 on a four-game road trip and has lost six in a row away from home. It dropped a 106-84 decision in Boston on Wednesday, as Darren Collison and Carl Landry scored 14 points apiece and DeMarcus Cousins was ejected for picking up his second technical foul after tossing Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart to the floor in the fourth quarter.
Smart tried to box out Cousins, who took exception and whipped Smart to the floor. Both players had to be restrained by teammates. Cousins still managed to record a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds, and has 13 in the past 14 games (17 total).
"Everything was just off tonight," Kings coach Tyrone Corbin said. "It's a disappointing effort, disappointing loss and we have to get better."
Prior to the game, Corbin said his interim tag was lifted for the rest of the season. He replaced fired coach Michael Malone on Dec. 15.
The Kings, losers in nine of 11 games overall, will close the trip Sunday in Detroit and are 5-9 on the road.
Sacramento won the first of three meetings against Minnesota with a 113-101 triumph on Nov. 22 at Target Center. Cousins was a monster in that one with 31 points and 18 rebounds, while Wiggins paced the Wolves with 29 points.
The two teams split last season's series, 2-2. They will meet again April 7 in Sacramento.