After withstanding a furious fourth quarter run from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the San Antonio Spurs (5-2), missing Devin Vassell, Josh Richardson, and Jeremy Sochan, concluded a successful weekend with its second impressive win in a week — and took its mini-series with Minnesota 2-1.
The stellar tandem of Keldon Johnson (25 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds) and Doug McDermott (23 points) were bolstered by Jakob Poeltl (14 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks) and Keita Bates-Diop (18 points and 6 rebounds), and a balanced team-wide effort to hold off the talented Wolves. Karl-Anthony Towns (26 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists) spearheaded Minnesota to an early first quarter advantage. His star counterparts, Anthony Edwards (18 points and 6 assists) and DeAngelo Russell (10 points and 5 rebounds), had more muted performances, which allowed San Antonio to keep the Wolves at bay throughout the final three quarters. Minnesota (4-3) managed to set 3-point shooting back to the George Mikan era with a 4-for-29 (13%) brickfest.
Nine of the ten Spurs players who dressed scored, and San Antonio’s bench rode a decided advantage (43-28) to maintain their lead to the end. After a 57-47 lead at the break, the Spurs tried to salt the game away with an opening 12-4 salvo in the third quarter, but Edwards woke up to dominate the Minnesota offense and make things interesting. In a sloppy and uneven fourth quarter the Wolves were unable to complete a comeback and counter a consistent and sustained two-way effort by the Spurs.
- NBA TV’s Sam Mitchell during the half-time break: “The Spurs don’t have no talent. They don’t have no all-stars. Coaches - learn something from Pop!” <cringe emoji>
- Does anyone else feel like those “LeBron vs. Father Time” commercials really should be “LeBron vs. LeBron the GM’s ever-worsening personnel decisions?”
- The Wolves’ road unis make way more sense than the flourescent versions from previous seasons.
- The wide disparity between Poeltl’s and Gobert’s offensive acumen is jarring. Rudy looks like he’s still reliant on rudimentary instincts in his playmaking, while Poeltl has gone from serviceable to arguably the key cog in his team’s machine. The eye-test? Gobert was turned away by Romeo Langford and Johnson at the rim. Yick.
- Poeltl’s Power: The steady big man uncorked a smooth-looking lefty hook over Gobert and folowed it up with a one-handed floater early in the first.
- Romeo Langford has a high motor! Despite the eight inch height difference, Langford impressively swatted away a Gobert floater to finish the first quarter.
- Blake’s Bag: With the offense being run for its vets, Wesley found his way onto the scoresheet by nabbing a weakside offensive rebound and putback. Wesley unfortunately tweaked his left leg midway through the second and left the game.
- Malaki Moments: Branham’s catch-and-shoot late in the first half gave the hosts their first double-digit lead. There are shades of Dale Ellis in the rookie’s form.
- Sequence of the Game #1: After a Poeltl block on one end, Johnson jab-stepped Towns back before launching a baseline three to start the Spurs’ scoring.
- Sequence of the Game #2: Late in the opening frame, Zach Collins turned away a shot near the rim and hustled down the court to catch an entry pass deep in the post and convert a tough turnaround.
- Squence of the Game #3: In response to a questionable foul called on him, McDermott took a Tre Jones feed on the wing to drop a long-distance anvil and followed it with a block on former Spur Bryn Forbes. After the next Wolves miss, Johnson threw down a big-bodied slam coming down an open runway.
- Towns took advantage of mismatches in the frontcourt to connect on his first four attempts and put the Wolves up on a tentative Spurs squad. Doug McDermott’s first three tied things at 16, while his second one gave San Antonio its biggest lead in the opening stanza. The Spurs’ relentless offensive attack (all nine players scored) and frenetic defensive activity (three blocks and one steal) enabled them to exit the period up three over Minnesota.
- Bill Land and Sean Elliott interviewed former Spurs Ian Mahinmi and he gushed “YOU GUYS ARE PLAYING SO WELL!” as San Antonio surged ahead by eight. The Spurs continued to fire away unsuccessfully from distance, though in their defense, both teams combined to shoot under 20% from three. Johnson found a rolling Collins for a difficult banker after to extend Minessota’s deficit to six. Edwards showed his immature side by earning a technical foul despite his team earning a foul call. The Wolves were able to punish the Spurs in the paint and transition to net a bevy of three throws and shave the lead to five. A pair of McDermott threes helped make it a ten point difference at the break.
- A min early touchdown by San Antonio (floater by Langord, pull-up three by Johnson, and a dunk by Bates-Diop) stunned their counterparts. Johnson jumped the passing lanes to net a breakaway dunk to make it 66-47. Edward’s foibles continued as he was whistled for an offensive foul while shoving Johnson away in transition. A whirlwind of pace resulted in little-to-no scoring over several minutes. Minnesota again drew the Spurs into the foul bonus. In a frightful moment, Johnson appeared to tweak his left knee. Edwards finally asserted himself with seven easy points. Johnson’s emphatic stepback three made it 85-70 entering the final frame.
- A slippery drive and layup by Naz Reid and an and-1 by Edwards chopped the deficit in half to start the fourth. San Antonio’s offense withered against a more engaged Wolves defense. A putback by Bates-Diop and corner three by Jones briefly halted the run, but the surprising Edwards/Reid pairing made it a one possession game. As soon as Gobert re-entered the game for Reid, he tossed up two bricks deep in the paint. The teams exchanged blows until a McDermott bomb made it 102-92. A Forbes drive ended meekly in a blown layup, but Johnson was called questionably for a travel.
- A Langford deflection netted a jumpball with Edwards, which was won by the Wolves. Fortunately, the Wolves well-known shortcomings in decision-making resulted in a pull-up brick by Russell followed up by a desperation miss by Towns in transition when a simple two would have made it a two-possession game. A Johnson game-sealing three off a Poeltl kickout cemented the San Antonio win.
For the Wolves fan’s perspective, visit Canis Hoopus.
San Antonio continues its homestand against a gauntlet of playoff clubs Wednesday night at 7:00 PM CDT in a tilt with Pascal Siakam and the Toronto Raptors.