You may not be up to date with what’s going on in the Alamo City, so if you haven’t heard, the San Antonio Spurs clinched a play-in berth after their win over the Denver Nuggets, with a little bit of help from their buddies up in Los Angeles. If you told me that the Spurs would be here back on November 18th, I would have said you were crazy.
I bring up that specific date because it was me, that wrote the “What We Learned” piece after the Timberwolves blew the San Antonio Spurs off the floor in what was a 25-point victory for the Twin Cities.
In said piece, I told Spurs fans, “It may be time for Spurs fans to embrace the inevitable.” By which I meant that the Spurs wouldn’t be playing for anything significant in 2022 and probably should go the tanking route if the opportunity presented itself.
It’s my first season with Pounding the Rock, so maybe I could get a pass for that one? I did say that Devin Vassell should be starting, but clearly, I either underestimated the incompetence of the Western Conference, or the determination of this young Spurs group. Perhaps both.
What I know is that the San Antonio Spurs will take on the Timberwolves for the final time in the regular season, and up to this point, the Silver and Black have had zero luck stopping the potent Minnesota offense.
San Antonio Spurs (34-45) at Minnesota Timberwolves (45-35)
April 7, 2022 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Doug McDermott (Out — Ankle), Dejounte Murray (Out — Illness), Lonnie Walker (Day-to-Day — Back), Jock Landale (Day-to-Day — Foot), Romeo Langford (Day-to-Day — Heel)
Timberwolves Injuries: Patrick Beverley (Questionable — Ankle)
What to watch for:
- How will the Spurs stop the Timberwolves' offense? Coming into Thursday night’s contest, the Minnesota Timberwolves rank 6th in offensive rating while hovering around the top half of the league in terms of three-point efficiency. In both contests against the San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota was able to demolish the Spurs from beyond the arc, as they’re shooting 46.3% from three-point land against the Silver and Black, a full 10 percentage points higher than their per game average on the season. Defensively, San Antonio has been below league-average throughout their 2021-22 season and for them to turn the tide against the Timberwolves, stopping the barrage from three-point range must be priority number one. Be sure to keep an eye out on how the Spurs defend the three-point line, if the Timberwolves get off to a fast start from deep, this one could be over in a hurry.
- Who will step up in Dejounte Murray’s absence? In games without their starting All-Star Point Guard, the Spurs are 4-8 this season. Dejounte Murray’s impact, especially on the offensive end, is felt more and more with each game he misses. This will be emphasized as the Spurs take on a Timberwolves team that’s played above-average team defense throughout this season, ranking 13th in the NBA. This begs the question, who is going to take advantage of this influx of offensive touches? Surely, they’ll need hefty contributions from Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson, but against a scrappy team like the Timberwolves, they’re going to need a family feast full of servings from their second-stringers in order to continue their stretch of hot hoops.
- Are we watching Keldon Johnson’s next step in his development as an offensive player? In what has been one of the more shocking developments this season, despite the lack of shot versatility, Keldon Johnson has proven to be a terrific knockdown stand-still three-point shooter in the NBA. This year, KJ ranks in the 85th-percentile as a spot-up shooter, while shooting 43% on catch and shoot three-point shots. What’s been even more impressive, we are now seeing flashes of off the dribble creation, not only for himself but for his teammates. On about eight drives per game, if Johnson can parlay these temporary skills off the dribble into a consistent output offensively, the Spurs shot creation issues may trend in a positive direction. With Johnson scoring 20 or more points in 17 of his last 28 games and flashing shot creation potential all while being consistent from beyond the arc all year, we may be watching a new evolution within the offensive arsenal of the Spurs' third-year Forward.
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.