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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Minnesota Timberwolves

The Silver and Black are still in search of their first victory on their three-game road trip.

Minnesota Timberwolves v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

The Spurs are in the middle of a three-game losing streak for the second time this season, but they will have a perfect opportunity to pick up their first victory of a three-game road trip as they close things out against a middling Minnesota squad. While San Antonio is merely one game ahead of the Timberwolves in the Western Conference standings, they are well-positioned to head home with a dub.

Head coach Chris Finch and company enter this matchup less than 24 hours following a back-and-forth battle with Sacramento, and the Spurs have faced a litany of elite competitors that make Minnesota look like a slice of pumpkin pie. That said, every opponent deserves respect, and if the good guys aren’t careful, Karl-Anthony Towns could feast on their thin frontcourt just like Anthony Davis and Kristaps Porzingis.

San Antonio Spurs (4-10) @ Minnesota Timberwolves (5-9)

November 18, 2021 | 7:00 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Zach Collins (Out — Ankle), Devontae Cacok (Out — Two Way), Joe Wieskamp (Out — Two Way), Josh Primo (Out — On Assignment), Jakob Poeltl (Out — Competition Reconditioning) Jock Landale (Out — COVID Protocols)

Timberwolves Injuries: Josh Okogie (Game Time Decision — Back)

Corralling Minnesota’s Three-Headed Monster

Minnesota is home to one of the highest-scoring trios in the NBA as Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell have combined for precisely 64.0 points per game this season. Towns and Russell have garnered a couple of All-Star nods early into their careers. And Edwards already looks the part of a future go-to option after going first overall in the 2020 Draft and putting together a stellar rookie campaign.

The Spurs sport a skilled lineup of perimeter stoppers in Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Devin Vassell, and Lonnie Walker IV to throw at the Wolves and their talented guards throughout the evening. But with Jakob Poeltl on the sidelines for the eighth consecutive contest, KAT might be due for a colossal performance against San Antonio’s severely shorthanded and unfortunately undersized frontcourt.

Even if the Silver and Black hold Minnesota’s three-headed beast at bay, they’ll still have to worry about containing Malik Beasley. The 24-year-old wing has been atrocious from the field to start the season, but he can get hot in the blink of an eye, and he torched San Antonio to the tune of 27.3 points per game on a stunningly efficient 57.1% shooting across their three meetings a year ago.

Finding Holes in the Timberwolves’ Stingy Defense

San Antonio ranks second to last in free-throw and three-point attempts per game so far, and both of those glaring weaknesses surfaced in their latest loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday evening. The Spurs are just 2-7 when they take 30 or fewer threes and an abysmal 0-7 when they make 15 or fewer trips to the charity stripe. They also maintain a -38 point differential when they fail to meet either mark this season.

Although the Timberwolves have allowed the ninth-fewest threes (11.5 3PA) in the league this season at the third-lowest clip (31.2%), the young pups still haven’t learned how to play defense without fouling. Minnesota commits the most fouls (22.9 PF) and yields the most free-throw attempts (23.9 FTA) in the NBA, holes that the Silver and Black should actively seek to exploit as they hope to end their three-game skid.

Keldon Johnson is the only player on the roster who gets to the line with any regularity, and the rest of the Spurs would do well to assume a more aggressive approach when attacking the rim. Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV are notorious for actively avoiding contact inside the restricted area. However, they could help San Antonio get back into the win column if they embrace physicality versus a foul-happy opponent.

Foul trouble aside, this young Timberwolves squad has put together one of the stingiest defenses in basketball behind a suffocating group of long, athletic, and switchable stoppers. And it has paid dividends. Per Synergy, Minnesota lays claim to the top transition defense (0.976 PPP) and seventh-best half-court defense (0.903 PPP), culminating in the sixth-most efficient overall defense (0.926 PPP).

The Silver and Black have asked Dejounte Murray to carry the brunt of the offensive responsibilities this season, but the stringy point guard will need his supporting cast to show up on Thursday. Despite Derrick White finally returning to form versus the Clippers, Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker IV, Devin Vassell, and Doug McDermott laid a collective egg. Hopefully, they can all get on the same page as San Antonio visits the Twin Cities.

For the Timberwolves fans’ perspective, please 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.