They had us in the first half, not gonna lie.
After dropping two consecutive games and falling out of a playoff spot, the Spurs didn’t look much better at the start of Wednesday’s game, as they trailed by double digits for most of the night. Thankfully, the team showed a lot of character by mounting a comeback in the fourth quarter, handing the lowly Timberwolves their 16th loss of the season.
This was truly a team win, with Demar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, and Jakob Poetl carrying the bulk of San Antonio’s scoring, while other players made timely contributions to fill in the gaps. Following their blowout loss against the Grizzlies on Monday, San Antonio continued their lethargic play for much of this game. The Spurs struggled to generate consistent offense and missed wide-open chances when the opportunity arose. On the other end, Minnesota hit a flurry of threes, which was the big difference between the two teams in the first half; the Timberwolves converted on 9-18 treys while San Antonio was only 3-12.
Malik Beasley, in particular, benefitted from wide-open looks with the Spurs’ defense focused mainly on D'Angelo Russell. At halftime, he led all players with 15 points on 6-8 shooting, and it looked like San Antonio was set to lose their third consecutive game. The good guys did show signs of life during certain moments, but they were all neutralized by timely runs from Minnesota.
However, the fourth quarter proved to be a completely different story. Literally.
Down by 16, I had already started writing about the Spurs’ third straight loss. Fortunately, the team is a lot more resilient than I am, and put on one of the most impressive quarters of the season. San Antonio’s offense finally clicked, with players like Trey Lyles hitting timely threes that slowly chipped away at Minnesota’s lead. More importantly, the Timberwolves’ shooting came crashing down to Earth, going 8-23 from the field and 1-7 from deep in the final frame. Of course, the Spurs deserve credit too, as they did a better job of closing out and making life more difficult on shooters.
With less than five minutes to go, Patty Mills hit an incredible layup that was inches away from completely going over the backboard, but instead bounced back onto the rim and in, tying the game up at 99. On the very next possession, San Antonio took their first lead of the game.
After that, it was time for DeMar “82nd best player” DeRozan to take over. The veteran forward showed off his signature scoring repertoire, from mid-ranger jumpers to thunderous dunks. With 2:30 left and the Spurs up by one, he hit a beautiful fadeaway over 1st overall pick Anthony Edwards and proceeded to talk some trash to the Timberwolves bench. The good guys were largely in control from then on and DeRozan finished with a game-high 30 points, 16 coming in the fourth.
All in all, it was a gutsy victory by the Spurs that will hopefully spark another win streak. It’s important to keep in mind that it came against the worst team in the conference that was also missing its best player, but the comeback was impressive nonetheless. There are still issues that need to be addressed, especially defensively, but the return of Derrick White will help with that and San Antonio seems poised to get even better with most of their key players now healthy — besides, of coures, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay, who both had the night off to rest their sore and tight hips, respectively.
- White played 25 minutes, which a season-high. He once again came off the bench but looked good, scoring 10 points on top of eight assists. His shooting was a bit off, as he went 4-11 from the field, but there’s no reason to be overly concerned considering it’s only his third game back after recovering from his toe injury.
- There’s going to be an adjustment period with White back in the lineup, and rotations might look a bit funky for the next few games. Don’t be surprised if you notice the team’s chemistry seems slightly off. Lonnie Walker IV will likely come off the bench once White is fully up to game speed, giving the team even more depth and versatility.
- I also didn’t realize how much I’ve missed the awkward stutter steps that White takes while casually dribbling up the floor until tonight.
- Jakob Poeltl had one of his best games of the season with 19 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks. Toward the end of the fourth, Minnesota went to the Hack-a-Jak, making me wonder whether about Poeltl’s chances of becoming a reliable free throw shooter. Regardless, his good far outweighs the bad, and there are more pressing concerns facing the team at the moment.
- One of those issues is the lack of switchability on defense. The Timberwolves were able to generate countless open looks from three due to Spurs players having a hard time chasing their man around screens, and it’s evident that San Antonio is still learning to play a switch-heavy defense. Having DeRozan and a big on the court will always limit them in this aspect, so I’m not sure what the solution is, but it’s something worth watching.
- Dejounte Murray tied his career-high in threes made with three tonight. More importantly, he continued to put his consistent all-around game on display, finishing with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. He shot under 40% from the field, but Murray’s the type of player whose contributions go beyond just the stat sheet — which is saying something considering the numbers he tallied against the Timberwolves. His defense continues to round into form and opposing teams will eventually have to respect his shot, which will add another element to the Spurs’ offense.
Next game: Rockets on Saturday
Houston is currently one game back of the Spurs after losing to Oklahoma City earlier tonight, and San Antonio can pull away even farther if they can beat their I-10 rivals.