In their final “home” game of the season and second straight in Austin, the Spurs got out to a hot start against a Minnesota Timberwolves squad that still has plenty to play for via seeding, but after a close first half, the T-wovles explosded from three, hitting 10-11 in the third quarter and turned the game into a completely blowout loss for a Spurs team that had a great scoring game themselves, 151-131.
All five starters scored in double figures for the Spurs, led by 24 from Julian Champagnie, and Tre Jones recorded an other triple-double with 21-10-12. Anthony Edwards led seven Wolves in double figures with 33 points.
- Zach Collins’ season is over after he got an infection resulting from a finger laceration he received in Sacramento. It’s a shame, but he has had a tremendous season after three years of dealing with major injuries and working his way back. This season, he took complete advantage of being handed the starting center job after the Jakob Poeltl trade, and before the game Gregg Popovich proclaimed that he had officially “made it” and will be back as their starting center next season. Assuming the Spurs guarantee the final year of his contract as opposed to simply not picking it up and signing him to a new one (if that’s even legal), he will be a heck of a steal at $7.7 million.
- The Spurs rolled out their 40th starting lineup in the 81st game of the season, this time featuring Tre Jones, Malaki Branham, Julian Champagnie, and Keita Bates-Diop, and Sandro Mamukelashvili. That seems like a crazy, almost implausible stat, but it’s true. The most common starting unit was Jones, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan and Jakob Poeltl with 16 starts together. Ironically, in an ideal world where everyone was healthy, Collins in the place of Poeltl would have been the ideal starting lineup in the second half of the season, but that group actually never started a game together due to a combination of actual injuries and injury management.
- Mamu has been a heck of a grab off the waiver wires for the Spurs. He can shoot from outside and has some amazing handles for a big, and odds are if he hadn’t been drafted by a championship-contending team in the Bucks, he may have signed a standard NBA contract sooner. However, if there’s one thing he needs to work on, it’s not showing the ball to defenders so much. He doesn’t have the best hops and gets blocked a lot when he takes on respectable NBA rim protectors, so he’ll need to learn how to work around them better.
- First Half Champagnie is officially a thing. After his huge first halves against Sacramento and Portland, he dropped another 14 today on 4-5 shooting from three. Perhaps no one has taken more advantage of all the “injury management” the Spurs have done to end the season, and if hasn’t earned a standard NBA contract with San Antinio next season, hopefully someone else has noticed.
- I will say while Austin has sold out these two games, there have been more cheers for the two opposing teams (Portland and Minnesota — fanbases that don’t typically travel well) than you would generally expect for away games. Were out-of-towners taking advantage to visit a new city they probably otherwise wouldn’t go to (Austin is a highly desirable place for families relocating to Texas but not necessarily a tourism destination), or are there a lot of either bandwagon or relocated fans who still root for their own teams? Just a thought.
- This may sound odd, but Karl-Anthony Towns’ injury may have been a blessing in disguise for this Timberwolves squad. When the Spurs met them three times in their first seven games and embarrassed them twice as part of a surprising 5-2 start, the Rudy Gobert trade already seemed like a lost cause. He and KAT seemingly couldn’t coexist, Edwards did not enter the season in shape and seemed to be more interested in stat hunting, and there was a lot of bickering going around. KAT missing 50 straight games obviously wasn’t ideal, it gave Gobert time to mesh with his new teammates and forced everyone to come together as a team. While as a whole this season didn’t as they had hoped before it started, it was looking like it would be a lot worse early. Now, they are in the play-in with a chance at the playoffs, and it feels like they have something to build on going forward.
For the Timberwolves fans’ perspective, visit Canis Hoopus.
The Spurs’ season finale will be tomorrow on the road against a now-tanking Dallas Mavericks team. It will be another matinee game with a 2:30 PM CT tipoff on CW35.