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Defense lets the Spurs down AGAIN in loss to Timberwolves

KAT picked up a career high 60 as Minnesota laid 149 points down in San Antonio

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

If you love scoring and hate defense then this was the game for you, as the San Antonio Spurs and the Minnesota Timberwolves put up a combined 288 points in regulation. The home side came out of the contest with the loss because of a franchise and career high 60-point night from Karl Anthony-Towns.

To start the game, the Wolves were showing a bit of defense by applying pressure on the Spurs ball handlers with the tone being set by their defensive stalwart, Patrick Beverley. The road team came into the contest shooting the most threes per game than any other team in the league, so it was no surprise that they were lighting up the AT&T center early on. Luckily, the Silver & Black were finding scoring out of Devin Vassell who had eight quick points, including two catch & shoot threes. The first quarter consisted of 72 total points and 11 threes with both teams executing on offense. It was Minnesota who led 40-32 after closing the period on a 7-0 run.

The Spurs came out in the second frame more intense of the defensive end, showing some pride at the rim by blocking a number of shots. This helped fuel their transition offense and collect easy points in the paint. This quarter became all about the refs with the officials blowing their whistle at any hint of contact. Eventually both team’s defenses started to fall apart again which led to an end to end game of easy buckets. San Antonio closed the gap at the interval, only finding themselves down two; 75-73.

After 24 points for KAT in the first-half the road team realized the key to victory would be to feed their All-Star big man, and that’s exactly what they did. KAT had a 32-point quarter where he was absolutely unstoppable and was knocking down shots from the outside, getting to the paint and drawing fouls at will. At one point the game became a chaotic foul fest with neither team able to get any rhythm or momentum which left both teams frustrated. Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson were doing their all to keep the game in hand but Towns was just not going to yield. The Spurs gave up 46 points in the frame and were down 15 heading into the fourth.

Fortunately for San Antonio, KAT spent the first few minutes on the bench, and then when he came back in he picked up two quick fouls and had to go sit again to avoid picking up his sixth. The Spurs were able to cut into the deficit with Towns on the bench but were unable to build a sustained run to bring them back into the contest. Eventually, Coach Pop emptied the bench as KAT came back in to get four more points which gave him a new career and franchise high 60 points. The Spurs scored 139 but still lost by double figure to the Timberwolves; 149-139.

Game Notes

  • Defense. I’m not so sure how much more I can say about the defense that hasn’t already been said. The defense has been atrocious, awful, horrific, use any adjective you want, but it’s not been pretty and it’s costing the Spurs. The first month of the season it was the defensive side of the ball that was keeping San Antonio in games, then in December their offense moved up to 4th in the league but at that point their defense started to slide. Then came the start of the calendar year, and since then their defense is one of the worse in the league, and it’s not getting any better. The Silver & Black have given up over 114 points in 11 of their last 14 games.
  • Lineups. With Doug McDermott injured and “out for a while” according to Coach Pop, the Spurs went with a super small starting five with Josh Richardson replacing the sharpshooter. San Antonio have usually played quite well this season when they have surrounded one big with four perimeter oriented players who can handle the ball and create a little, while being able to switch one through five defensively, but against Minnesota it just didn’t work. They didn’t have the size to compete and they were outmatched all night long. Offensively they were good, moving the ball and driving and kicking to the wings but they also just made some tough shots they usually don’t. Lonnie had 22 points off the bench but the other three who played rotation minutes had only a combined 10. Pop has favored the nine-man rotation over the past few years but if he is going to stick with it, he will need more production out of them as a group.
  • Play-In Update. San Antonio are 2.5 games out of the 10th seed with 13 games to play.

Play of the Game

Proof that the Spurs didn’t just have their guys stand on the offensive end all night.

Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)

3rd place (1 point): Dejounte Murray | 36mins, 30 points, 12 assists, 4 rebounds, 10/20 fgs

Pat Bev made it tough on Dejounte Murray all game but in the end Murray got his numbers and shot efficiently. But the 5 turnovers, the 1/5 from three and the poor defense (everyone was bad on that end) cost him from ending up any higher than third place.

2nd place (2 points): Lonnie Walker IV | 26mins, 22 points, 8/12 from the floor, 3/5 from 3

Lonnie was the spark plug once again for the Spurs. He came in, got his shots and knocked them down at a high clip. Walker is looking supremely confident over the past few weeks and his handle is looking as tight as ever which is helping him create shots off the dribble. But just like everyone else, his defense was poor.

1st place (3 points): Keldon Johnson | 37mins, 34 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 threes

A career high 34-point night for Keldon Johnson. KJ was phenomenal on the offensive end of the floor, attacking closeouts and finishing strongly at the rim while shooting the ball with ease. It was one of those nights for Keldon where it just didn’t seem like he could miss. He was a positive on a poor night for the Silver & Black. He played bad on defense but on a night where everyone did, it isn’t going to cost him the three SVP points.

Overall Leaderboard

1st - Dejounte Murray - 105pts

2nd - Jakob Poeltl - 61pts

3rd - Derrick White & Keldon Johnson- 51pts

4th - Devin Vassell- 44pts

5th - Lonnie Walker IV - 34pts

6th - Doug McDermott - 16pts

7th - Bryn Forbes - 12pts

8th - Thaddeus Young - 11pts

9th - Tre Jones & Jock Landale - 7pts

10th - Keita Bates-Diop - 6pts

11th - Josh Primo - 3pts

12th - Drew Eubanks & Josh Richardson - 2pts

13th - Devontae Cacok & Zach Collins - 1pt


Next Game: Vs Oklahoma City on Wednesday

The Spurs will look to rebound against the young & shorthanded Oklahoma City Thunder in a very winnable game.