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A hot Keldon Johnson kept the Spurs close against the revenge-minded Timberwolves

The Spurs (unsurprisingly) couldn’t beat the T-Pups twice in a row, but some highlight-worthy performances kept it closer than expected.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s kind of awkward to call a loss a “pleasant surprise”, but many fans probably went into last night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves — the second of road-road miniseries — expecting a revenge beatdown after the way the Spurs humiliated them on Monday. The players and Coach Chris Finch were mad and straight up admitted after that game that they got punked, so it would be understandable to believe the favor was about to be returned, especially with Devin Vassell and Josh Primo being late scratches for San Antonio.

That ended up not being the case. Even though the Wolves led for the majority of the game thanks to hitting a franchise record 10 threes in the first quarter (and having what had to be close to a record shooting night, hitting 20-34 from three and shooting 65% overall), the Spurs surprisingly kept pace for three-and-a-half quarters of the 134-122 loss.

One way they were able to keep up was they shot well enough from three themselves, hitting 16-36, beginning with two early ones from Jeremy Sochan on his way to 12 points for the night. He ended up hitting just 2-6 from three overall, but showing no fear in taking them is a good first step for the rookie.

Of course, the 9th overall pick’s calling card is his defense, and his ability to cover all five spots on the floor has been noticeable after just five games. How many rookie forwards have the physical gifts and awareness to block All-NBA centers without fouling?

Another big reason the Spurs kept up was Keldon Johnson’s continual growth and ability to lead his team, even while missing his sidekick in Vassell. After a quiet first half, he exploded in the second to get the Spurs back within five points after entering the third quarter down 15, and even as Minnesota got hot from three again in the fourth quarter, he had several responses of his own, hitting 5-10 from three for the night (after just hitting 1-6 on Monday) on his way to a team-high 27 points.

Finally, the veterans also helped keep the game interesting, namely Doug McDermott and Keita Bates-Diop, who combined for 34 efficient points off the bench. KBD came in and just did what he does: nothing flashy, no raining threes or anything like that. He just played hard and fought his way to the bucket for 15 points on 6-9 shooting.

McDermott also simply did what he does, coming in and hitting threes like it’s nothing for 19 points off the bench.

And finally, here are your full game highlights.