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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Minnesota Timberwolves

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The Spurs begin a two-game road trip by heading to Minneapolis to face two of the NBA's brightest young stars and one of the league's more entertaining teams, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs @ Minnesota Timberwolves

Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
December 23, 2015, 7:00 p.m. Spurs Time
TV: FSSW Radio: 1200 AM WOAI

Winters are long and unsympathetic in the Upper Midwest where, as we move past the solstice, the sun will be setting in the mid-afternoon, hours before the Spurs and Timberwolves tip off. It's the perfect backdrop for the malcontents of Grumpy Old Men and the sulky despair of Fargo, and those are the feelings that the protracted season often evokes in Timberwolves fans, who annually emerge from a tundra of parka and fleece to see that their team will once again be getting an early start on the NBA summer.

At 11-17, this year's Timberwolves are once more on their way to the Lottery, but there is a decidedly different outlook for their future.

Last year's ROY Andrew Wiggins has been paired with rookie Karl Anthony-Towns and, though neither can (legally) allay winter's frosty grip by visiting their local tavern, the two 20-year-olds are already flashing the potential to be the league's best one-two punch for the next decade.

Wiggins still can't really shoot (25% from three-point range) -- and that's a problem, I know -- but his athleticism is eye-popping, and he has improved his midrange game this year. His long strides and size make it easy for him to get to the hoop, and he has the perfect point guard in Ricky Rubio to help get him looks while he develops his touch.

Speaking of shooting, Rubio continues to find ways to be a difference-maker on offense without being any sort of threat from deep. His promising start to the year (he hit two threes in the first game of the season!) appears to have been a tease, with his field-goal percentage at 32% now. Still, he's a solid defender, steal-generator and one of the savviest passers in the league.

First-overall pick Towns has lived up to his pre-draft hype in nearly every way and, now that Coach Sam Mitchell is giving him more minutes, he's been on a tear. He has legitimate three-point range, a solid game around the rim, and excellent passing skills. He can impact the game on both ends of the floor like few 20-year-olds can, and having grumpy old man Kevin Garnett in his ear seems to really benefit him.

Garnett, who rejoined Minnesota last year, forms a three-headed monster of NBA elders, along with Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller, who may or may not be there solely to mentor young guys Towns, Wiggins and Zach LaVine. The balance of playing time between young and old is something that has drawn a bit of scrutiny for Mitchell, although it seems to be tilting in favor of the new guys in the advent of Rubio's return from injury and the improved play of Gorgui Dieng.

Even if the Spurs bring everyone with them (nothing's reported at this writing), there's the chance this game is closer than the teams' records might suggest. The Wolves' bench isn't terrible, Kevin Martin just might put up 35 points and, if their shots happen to fall, we could have a game. Either way, the first three quarters or so should provide plenty of entertainment.

Matchup to watch: Aldridge against Towns. Towns' game (at least in its current chrysalis) isn't all too different from Aldridge's, as they're both big men who can stretch the floor and mix it up down low. Aldridge can help the Spurs by pulling Towns away from the basket, and his basket of tricks and pump fakes could get the young rook into foul trouble if he bites on a few of them.

San Antonio Spurs (24-5)

Minnesota Timberwolves (11-17)

December 23, 2015

Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

7:00 PM CST

TV: FSSW

Starters

Tony Parker

PG

Ricky Rubio

Danny Green

SG

Andrew Wiggins

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Tayshaun Prince

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Karl-Anthony Towns

Tim Duncan

C

Gorgui Dieng


Game prediction: Spurs by 7

For the Timberwolves fans' perspective, visit Canis Hoopus.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.