The Spurs are back in Minnesota for their fourth and final meeting with the Timberwolves this season. The Silver and Black lead the series 2-1, but have been outscored by 9 points over their 3 games. While the Timberwolves try to hang on to the outside of the playoff race, the Spurs could find themselves just a half-game out of 3rd with a win (and a little help from the Pelicans).
San Antonio Spurs (26-20) at Minnesota Timberwolves (21-23)
January 18, 2019 | 7:00 PM CT
Listen: WOAI | Watch: ESPN/KMYS
Spurs Injuries: Dejounte Murray (torn ACL — out)
Timberwolves Injuries: Robert Covington (right knee bone bruise — out), Tyus Jones (left ankle sprain — out)
Battle of the Big Men
In a league increasingly dominated by perimeter players, the Spurs and Timberwolves employ two of the most talented low post artists in the business. And yet their three previous affairs have been far from the heavyweight title bouts you might expect. LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging - hold on to your hats - 13.7 points per game against the Timberwolves this season. I know, that doesn’t make any sense to me either, but it’s true.
On the other side, Karl-Anthony Towns has put up a whopping 12.3 points per game against the Spurs this season, so, um, yeah. Of course, the teams’ last two meetings were blowouts and the Timberwolves are missing their best defender, so perhaps this game will be another one-sided track meet.
The Return of Rudy
Rudy Gay came back from a 5-game absence due to an injured wrist in the Spurs’ last game against the Mavericks. Not coincidentally, they scored more points than their opponent, which seems like a good thing. Rudy has that effect on the team. The Spurs are now 21-12 in games he starts, 1-2 when he comes off the bench, and just 4-6 when he doesn’t play.
The Timberwolves miss Covington when he’s not on the floor, especially on defense. They give up 8.3 more points per 100 possessions without him, per Cleaning the Glass. He spent time guarding everyone from Bryn Forbes to Rudy Gay in their last meeting, though Andrew Wiggins still drew most of the time on DeMar DeRozan.
Without their most disruptive defender - Covington leads the team in both steals, with 2.3 per game, and deflections, with 3.5 per game - the Timberwolves will likely be hard-pressed to slow down the Spurs’ offensive attack.
However, they did just take down the Thunder last week, in Oklahoma City, without him. That was their first game under interim coach Ryan Saunders. The team is 2-2 since he took over, and had been playing some very good basketball prior to getting dismantled by the 76ers in a 42-point beatdown on Tuesday night.
The Spurs have not been great away from the AT&T center this year. With a record of just 8-14 on the road and a net rating of -3.3 in those games, the Spurs’ mojo has not traveled well this season. To be fair, though, if we neck it down to just the away games the team has played since the early December home stand that revived their season, they’re 4-4 with a net rating of +4.6, which is actually 3rd best in the league.
I don’t want to jinx this, but all signs point to the Spurs getting their 1st pair of back-to-back wins on the road this season. If they can get it done, and by a significant margin, we might get some Chimezie-time.
Earlier the Spurs announced Chimezie Metu has been recalled from the Austin Spurs.— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) January 17, 2019
Vegas Line: Spurs by 1.5
Game Prediction: Spurs by 14 (Gimme some Metu!)
For the visitor’s perspective, please check out Canis Hoopus.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.