Ex-Cats

Timberwolves-Kings game features battle between two Kentucky big men

Kentucky alum DeMarcus Cousins (center) talked to his teammates, including Karl-Anthony Towns (second from right) during a timeout during the school’s charity game against North Carolina alums on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015, in Rupp Arena in Lexington.
Kentucky alum DeMarcus Cousins (center) talked to his teammates, including Karl-Anthony Towns (second from right) during a timeout during the school’s charity game against North Carolina alums on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015, in Rupp Arena in Lexington. Herald-Leader

Friday night’s game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings in Minneapolis will mark the first time rookie Karl-Anthony Towns will go up against big man DeMarcus Cousins in an NBA game. But Towns already has a very good idea of what Cousins is capable of.

Both Cousins and Towns played for Kentucky in college, and both of them hung around in Lexington a bit this past summer. And so, inevitably, they got involved in some pickup basketball.

“He’s very talented and, obviously, a big human being,” Towns said of the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins. “So you have to play physical with him, try to use speed against him. You’re talking about one of the best in the league. Before the season started we played a lot of pickup games against each other. So it’s going to be fun to see him again.’’

Cousins was dealing with some back pain and didn’t play the first time the two teams met in Sacramento on Nov. 27. Towns had seven points, eight rebounds and two blocks in the Wolves’ 101-91 victory.

Playing the Kings now will be a lot tougher with Cousins in the lineup. Towns could tell that from those pickup games.

“Obviously we were both very competitive,” Towns said. “So it’s going to be another chance to go out on the court and compete against each other.’’

▪  Towns was also asked about his recent three-point shooting. Towns hit two of four three-pointers in Minnesota’s loss in New York Wednesday. In his last 10 games Towns has hit seven of 15 three-pointers.

Towns said that he started stepping back and taking threes when he felt his mid-range shot wasn’t going. “Having it not go in for me, I decided I must have been in too close,” he said. “So I just started to step back.’’

Kevin Garnett, one of Towns’ mentors this season, cautioned that Towns shouldn’t fall in love with the three-pointer.

“If you have it, you’re open, take it, obviously,’’ Garnett said. “But let your bread and butter be what’s in the middle. Let that be what people know you for. It’s a great weapon for him. He works on it every day. I don’t condemn anything. [But] I always encourage him to lean towards his strengths.’’

▪  The last time these two teams met, the Wolves won — on the road — despite not scoring a single point on the fast break.

“I would say, with the athleticism we have on this team, it is unbelievable,” Garnett said. “We did win that game, so I’m taking that. But we do have to figure out how to get easier points.’’

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