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What we learned from the Spurs’ overtime win over the Timberwolves

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San Antonio won its third straight game on the road and tied last season’s longest win streak as they escaped Minnesota with an overtime victory.

San Antonio Spurs v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images

After a blowout loss to Utah last Sunday capped a four-game skid, San Antonio has strung together three wins in a row on the road. While they haven’t been uniformly stellar throughout, I’m sure PATFO isn’t complaining about a 5-4 start, considering two-thirds of their matchups have come against playoff teams including the reigning champions.

Friday brought yet another whirlwind outing that saw the Silver and Black give up 15 triples and trade the lead 20 times to the team with the worst record in the Western Conference. While San Antonio took care of business in the end (dispatching the Timberwolves in overtime) it was hardly the resounding display of dominance some expected.

Of course, the return of All-NBA center Karl-Anthony Towns made an immediate impact for Minnesota, and his presence alone raised their level of play substantially. Fortunately for the Spurs, a stupendous performance from DeMar DeRozan pushed them over the hump, and the proceedings ended on a turnover from Minnesota rookie Anthony Edwards as he was baited into an errant pass by a superbly laid defensive trap.

Observations

  • It seems like the Silver and Black have often played up and down to their competition over the last couple of seasons. The Cavs, Timberwolves, and Hawks, who combined for just 58 wins, each beat the Spurs twice a year ago. Yet somehow, that same San Antonio team managed impressive victories over the Bucks, Celtics, Clippers, Jazz, and Heat. So far, the 2020-2021 Spurs have continued that trend and Friday night added another brick to that wall. Coming into this matchup, the Spurs had knocked off the Lakers and Clippers in consecutive contests, and cellar-dwelling Minnesota was the worst club in the conference in three-point percentage standpoint. Miraculously, the T-Wolves rediscovered their long-range shooting stroke, erased an eight-point second-half deficit, and forced overtime. KAT was responsible for some of that resilience, but San Antonio’s inconsistent output was the main culprit in a game that didn’t have to be so close. Can the good guys walk away with a more convincing win tonight? I sincerely hope so.
  • The Spurs have one of the worst three-point defenses in the NBA this season, allowing opponents to knock down 13.2 threes at a league-worst 41.5% clip. Friday saw more of the same flimsy perimeter protection as the Timberwolves drained 15 of their 30 attempts from beyond the arc. What makes this even more frustrating is Minnesota sported the lowest three-point percentage in the NBA heading into their tilt with San Antonio. A few of their long-distance bombs were desperate heaves that lady luck guided into the bottom of the net, though most were legitimately wide-open shots. The Silver and Black can’t continue to allow opponents a smorgasbord of low-resistance looks from downtown, and I worry this could become their fatal flaw if they don’t clean up their coverage of the arc.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan may not have a long-term future with the Silver and Black, but they’ve shown they can make an impact for winning organizations in the past. And as long as Gregg Popovich holds the title of head coach, I fully anticipate pursuing the postseason to remain San Antonio’s primary objective. Prioritizing minutes, touches, and shots for the former All-Stars and their seasoned sidekicks Rudy Gay and Patty Mills wouldn’t be my modus operandi if I ran the franchise. But seeing as I don’t have a say in the operations, complaining about the veteran-centric schemes does little good outside of venting my opinions. With that in mind, the Spurs vets have each contributed something worthwhile. DeRozan dominated in crunch time versus Minnesota when San Antonio needed a go-to option and finished with 38 points, tying his career-high in a Spurs jersey. Aldridge cleared the way for teammates to secure rebounds by boxing out and made the game-sealing deflection. Patty stayed red-hot from three-point-land as he drilled five triples, scoring or assisting on eight of San Antonio’s 12 overtime points. While Gay didn’t have a great game, the 15-year pro has been one of the Spurs’ better one-on-one defenders so far. And despite an average of 111 minutes worth of that veteran quartet on a nightly basis, the young core of Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker IV, Jakob Poeltl, and Devin Vassell receiving around 128 per game has made that first number easier to swallow.

Irrelevant Side-note

I expressed my undying love for anything and everything fiesta-color related in my previous WWL post, so it’s only right that I denounce the atrocity that was the Timberwolves’ attempt at creating human highlighters. Their neon Nike statement jerseys were quite possibly the worst thing from Friday’s game, and they were so appalling that I’m not entirely sure my 20/20 vision is still intact. I’m thrilled to announce Minnesota will give our eyes a break and wear their association edition white threads tonight. Regrettably, I will never un-see what I must assume was a failed attempt at honoring the Northern Lights. I genuinely apologize if you liked those overly-bright outfits, though I’m not sorry that we won’t have to bear witness to them again this season.