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Game Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs look to beat another losing streak to the punch, and get a bit of revenge in the process.

San Antonio Spurs v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs play host to an inconsistent Minnesota Timberwolves squad tonight, as they look to get back into the win column once again. Coming off of a speed bump against a surging Lakers team, San Antonio has a real chance to find themselves back in the winner’s circle if they can maintain the same level of intensity they displayed against Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that that will be the case for a Spurs squad that’s been just as (if not a bit more) inconsistent than the incoming T-Wolves. Additionally, Karl-Anthony Towns and his merry band of rouges have already taken one off of the Silver and Black this season, in a match-up in which Spurs big man Jakob Poeltl was limited to only twelve minutes of play despite Trey Lyles providing a grand total of zero points in twenty-two minutes of abuse at the hands of Towns and Robert Covington.

Fortunately some changes have been made to the starting lineup since then, and it will be interesting to see how Minnesota’s bigs respond to San Antonio’s reworked front-court assignments. After watching the pairing of LaMarcus Aldridge and Poeltl contain Anthony Davis for the better part of four quarters, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that they might be able to stymie the similarly exceptional Towns.

Unlike San Antonio, the Timberwolves have had some luck closing out tight games this year, and if not for a couple of bad breaks the Spurs might well be sitting at .500 or slightly better, so don’t over-estimate the opposition in this match-up. Aside from the win column, these two teams aren’t as far apart in skill level as that record might make them appear.

The Timberwolves enter this game as an objectively middling team offensively (7th in points per game, but 20th in offensive rating) and defensively (14th in defensive rating), but they have an much bigger turnover problem (20th in total turnovers given up, 16th in turnover percentage) than the Spurs, who in spite of some early game-to-game inconsistencies are still one of the better teams in the league at limiting turnovers (6th least turnovers given up, 8th in turnover percentage), and who have still have the offense to take advantage of this imbalance (6th best offensive rating, 3rd best FG%).

San Antonio Spurs (6-12) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-8)

November 27, 2019: 7:30 PM CT

Watch: FSSW, FSN | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: None

Timberwolves Injuries: Jake Layman (Toe – Out), Shabazz Napier (Hamstring – Out), Josh Okogie (Knee Soreness – Probable), Treveon Graham (Forearm – Probable)

What to watch for

  • Andrew Wiggins vs. DeMar DeRozan: If all goes well on other fronts, this may end up becoming the determining match-up of the night. Granted, it’s unlikely that Wiggins and DeRozan will be matched up by position, but any rotation could put one of these players in front of the other, and in a game of mid-range chicken, it stands to reason that one or two solid defensive stands by either player against the other could go a long way in determining whose team will go on to snatch victory from the jaws of retreat.
  • Inverse Correlation: Karl-Anthony Towns has been remarkably consistent this season scoring-wise, averaging 26.5 pts per game so far. However, Minnesota is only 2-2 in games in which he scores thirty points or more, and the two wins were both by two points or less. While it’s not ideal for Towns to go off on the Spurs, if he does, it may be a sign that San Antonio is successfully smothering the Timberwolves’ other threats, rather than a sign of disaster, so keep an eye out for that.
  • Who on the Spurs bench will rise to the occasion? – After seeing the Los Angeles Lakers work specifically on neutralizing Patty Mills, and watching Rudy Gay struggle, it would be great if someone else from the bench mob was able to step up the scoring in times of need. In San Antonio’s last tilt versus the Timberwolves, it was the little-known Jake Layman who stepped up and put the dagger into the Spurs’ attempt at a comeback, something that just about any Spurs bench player seemed capable of in days of yore. It’s my dearest hope that this will end up being Dejounte Murray’s role as the season progresses, and hey, there’s no better time to start than the present!

Coming off a tough (and largely competitive) loss against a formidable foe, and back in their own building for a match-up with a team that slapped them around earlier in the season, the Spurs should be highly motivated and hungry for a win. There’s still a sense that this team can do better than they have, and you could see that sense of pride on display right up until LeBron James decided to make use of his power-up bonus in the final quarter. A loss here could also serve as a massive step-back after the flashes of confidence that have started to appear, so this game is a lot more important than it looks. Here’s to looking for progress in an off-kilter year, and if not . . . well, here’s to the bottom of the glass!

Vegas odds: Spurs by 2

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 if you don’t have a radio around.