Luka Garza has his best stretch as a pro, while Keegan slumps, then immediately breaks out for a career-high. Let’s go!
We’re going to start with Luka. After some up-and-down playing time and a brief stop back in Des Moines, Luka returned to the Timberwolves and had his best 3-game stretch in the NBA.
On February 3, the Wolves lost to the Orlando Magic, 127-120. The game was highlighted by a fist/slap fight between Mo Bamba and Austin Rivers. With that dominating all conversations from that game, Luka initially went under the radar, scoring 17 points and snaring 6 rebounds (5 offensive) on 7-9 shooting (2-3 from 3). Most importantly, he was a +12 and did all of that in just 10 minutes of work. That line in such a short period of time was a piece of NBA history.
17 PTS 6 REB 10 MIN— NBA G League (@nbagleague) February 4, 2023
Luka Garza was UNSTOPPABLE off the bench last night for the @Timberwolves! The two-way signee became the first player in NBA history to post 17+ points and 5+ boards in 10 minutes or less. pic.twitter.com/0T7NCbmXDl
Of all the players that have come and gone in this league, he’s the first to do that? What an incredible accomplishment by Garza.
Luka didn’t play in Minnesota’s next game, a 128-98 win over the Jokic-Murray-Gordon-KCP-less Denver Nuggets. He played in the second game of the pairing with the Nuggets in which Denver returned the favor, a 146-112 laugher in Denver (Minnesota led this game 13-12 with 7:30 left in the first quarter, but the quarter ended with Denver up 49-19 and Jokic had a 17-10-10 triple-double locked up in just 18 minutes of work; if you live in a city with an NBA team, you simply MUST get to a Jokic game).
Despite the loss, Garza still put together another solid line, going for 19 points and 9 rebounds in 21 minutes of work. He was -16, but 12 of the 14 players that saw the floor for the Wolves were under water in +/-, so that’s hardly an indictment of Garza.
On the second night of a back-to-back, Minnesota made the short trip from Denver to Salt Lake City to take on a Jazz team gutted at the trade deadline. The Wolves won 143-118 and Garza was again center stage. Luka finished with 25 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists in 24 minutes of work. Our own Thad Nelson described Garza as a professional scorer and that is the PERFECT way of discussing Luka. He just gets buckets (9-13 from the floor in that game, including 4-5 from 3 and 3-3 from the line).
Luka got into his bag a bit in this game. I honestly don’t remember him making a little running hook shot while at Iowa:
LUKA WITH THE HOOK. pic.twitter.com/cLkdGZcQEl— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) February 9, 2023
After being name Western Conference Rookie of the Month in back-to-back months, Keegan was SLOW out of the blocks in February and went into a mini-slump. In Sacramento’s first three games of the month, against San Antonio, Indiana, and New Orleans, Keegan scored a total of 7 points on a horrid 2-21 shooting from the floor. Unsurprisingly, Sacramento lost two of those three games, dropping a close game in Indianapolis then getting shelled by the up-and-down Pelicans in New Orleans.
Fear not, as the Houston Rockets were next up for the Kings. If you ever need to break out of a slump, just wait for the Rockets to pop up on the schedule. In the first of a two-game set with the Rockets (the first game being the second of a back-to-back after the Pelicans disaster), Keegan set a career-high, smashing the Rockets for 30 points and 6 rebounds on 11-17 shooting and a blistering 8-12 from 3 in a 140-120 win. The 8 3s were the most by a rookie this year. Here is his postgame interview.
Keegan Murray tonight:— J r u e (@thatl0calguy) February 7, 2023
30 PTS (career high)
8-12 3FG (career high)
your back-to-back Western Conference Rookie of the Month for a reason
also, he's a great gift giver lol pic.twitter.com/f0DNhit35E
The second game of the Rockets series wasn’t as prolific, as Keegan went for 10 points and 6 rebounds, but he finished with 2 steals and was solid defensively as the Kings won 130-128, a total steal by the visitors (seriously, the end of this game was a ref show of the first order. Don’t believe me? Watch this...).
what have i just witnessed https://t.co/qJ5MMzaKgM pic.twitter.com/CjyO8iHjdq— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) February 9, 2023
Keegan was 2-4 from 3 in this game, and that was enough to get him to 128 made 3s for the year, a new Kings franchise record for a rookie. So we have one guy securing a piece of NBA history, while the other sets a franchise record for made 3s by a rookie. Pretty good!
Luka and the Wolves, currently 8th in the West at 30-28, have games in Memphis and Dallas before a final home game heading into the All-Star Break against Washington. Meanwhile, Sacramento finishes the first half with a back-to-back with Dallas in Sacramento before a road game at the newly-refurbished Phoenix Suns to finish the first half. The Kings are still in 3rd in the West at 31-23. Reminder - their over/under for the year was 33.5...