After a disappointing 1-2 homestand, the San Antonio Spurs have lost four of their last five games, including two to lesser opponents (Atlanta and Memphis) in which they would have won had they played well for more than mere stretches at a time. They now face the daunting task of 7 games in 11 nights — six of which are on the road, and the only home game is on a SEGABABA — beginning on Wednesday with the surprisingly upstart Minnesota Timberwolves.
San Antonio Spurs (5-5) at Minnesota Timberwolves (6-4)
November 13, 2019 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs injuries: None
Timberwolves Injuries: Jordan Bell (shoulder — doubtful), Shabazz Napier (hamstring — doubtful), Jeff Teague (illness — questionable)
The Spurs need to find their form fast
It has been an up-and-down first ten games for the Spurs. After starting the season on a three-game winning streak (that still generated a few warning signs), the Spurs have gone 2-5 since, often struggling out of the gates and playing from behind. Even when they have built leads, they have had trouble maintaining them — all carryovers from last season.
A big contributor to the current slump has been sluggish offensive stretches (particularly at the start of the game), sometimes caused by the Spurs getting caught up in iso-ball or the most common one: simply not hitting their shots. If there’s one upside, it’s that so many of their misses lately have been shots rolling out and misses at the rim that they would normally make (and they were at the start of the season). More often than not, fluky stuff like this tends to average back to the mean eventually, so it just feels like sooner or later, the Spurs’ offense will sort itself out and shots will begin rolling in rather than out. It’s just a matter of when, but hopefully “soon” means to tonight.
Another issue from last season (and frankly the one before) that hopefully will have an answer this season is the Spurs’ road woes. While they were strong at home last season, they only won 16 games on the road, which severely limited their ceiling. With the West as deep as ever, they can’t afford another season of road struggles, especially if they’re going to give away games at home like the loss to Memphis — a horrible road team themselves.
Tonight will begin the Spurs first real test on this issue with the aforementioned 6 of the next 7 games being on the road. If they can start consistently winning the 50-50 and inferior match-ups away from the AT&T Center, life will get easier.
What’s behind the T-Wolves’ hot start?
Of all the preseason predictions out there over what Western Conference teams would still be fighting for a playoff spot late in the season, the Timberwolves were mostly an afterthought. While they were among those 12-13 teams that stood a chance, there wasn’t much reason to expect change from the team that went 36-46 last season and had yet to get the most out of their young stars.
It’s only been 10 games, but so far they are 6-4 thanks in large part to those young stars getting out to a hot start. Karl-Anthony Towns is averaging a career highs of 25.5 points and 9.4 rebounds so far in his bid for a third-straight All-Star appearance, but the real story has been former no. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins, who until now has mostly failed to live up to the hype.
Although he remains a below average three-point shooter for a wing, he’s still putting up a career high 25.5 points with an effective field goal percentage of .527, way above his previous high of .481 from four years ago. The improved scoring is all well and good, but the real reason behind his improvement appears to be better emphasis on his playmaking ability. His improved ball-handling and passing gives Minnesota another playmaker around Towns, producing a formidable pick-and-roll duo.
It will be a key match-up to watch between those two and their Spurs counterparts, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, both tonight and going forward. If Timberwolves are going to be yet another hurdle the Spurs have to get over to make it to their record-setting 23rd-straight playoff appearance, they will have to start acting now to get a head start on both the record and tie-breakers.
With this crazy schedule and conference, they can’t afford to take any more nights — let alone quarters — off.
Vegas Odds: Timbwerwolves by 1.5
Prediction: Spurs by 3
For the Timberwolves fans’ perspective, visit 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.