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Game preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs will face one of the best teams in the league in the second game of a back-to-back after a win against the Trail Blazers on Friday.

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

Only a few days ago, the Spurs battled one of the best teams in the West. It didn’t go well, as the Thunder dominated the matchup. Now they’ll have the opportunity to take on another elite opponent from their conference when the Timberwolves come to visit.

The Spurs have taken on the Wolves twice this season, and have two losses to show for it. It’s not surprising that they’ve struggled since Minnesota is a contender thanks to its elite defense. Still, the total margin of victory for the visitors in those two games is 15 points, which shows that San Antonio can give them some trouble. Expecting a win on the second game of a back-to-back against a clearly superior squad would be too optimistic, but it’s not crazy to assume that the Spurs could keep things competitive.

Wins and losses don’t really matter much for the Silver and Black at this point, but the opportunities to see how their players measure up against the league’s best are always valuable. The Rudy Gobert vs. Victor Wembanyama duel should be fun to watch. So will Anthony Edwards vs. Devin Vassell. As a young team, the Spurs can learn important lessons from opponents that have things figured out, so games like this one can always help, even if the likely outcome is a defeat.

San Antonio Spurs (9-36) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (32-13)

January 27, 2024 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: KENS5 | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Charles Bassey – Out (left knee,) Sidy Cissoko – Out (ankle,) David Duke Jr. – Out (G League,) Mamadi Diakite – Questionable (G League,) Dominick Barlow – Questionable (G League,)

Wolves Injuries: Jaylen Clark — Out (Achilles), Leonard Miller — Out (G League), Daishen Nix — Out (G League), Josh Minott — Out (G League)

What to watch for:

Victor will need help against an elite frontcourt

In the first two matchups against the Wolves, the Spurs started both Wembanyama and Zach Collins. Now, they have moved Wemby to center, which means he might have to deal with Minnesota’s two big-man lineups on his own. The visitors have a powerful one-two punch with Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert inside, two players who bring completely different but complementary skill sets to the table. Naz Reid is coming off the bench as well, so they are stacked. Wemby will have to go from guarding the paint-bound Gobert to defending in the perimeter all while trying to provide help to his teammates and staying out of foul trouble.

He won’t be able to do it alone, though. Sochan, coming off a fantastic performance in the win against the Trail Blazers on Friday, will need to do his best against Towns and Collins will need to be ready to provide good minutes both backing up Wembanyama and playing alongside him if needed. The rest of the bigs available would probably struggle against this level of opponent, so the main guys will need to shine and fans will need to hope that Wemby actually suits up for the second game of the back-to-back now that his restrictions have been loosened. Both Victor and Pop seemed confident he would be available, so it should be a fun matchup inside.

A battle between an elite defense and a terrible offense

The Timberwolves have the best defense in the league. The Spurs have the third-worst offense. San Antonio, which has shown a propensity to long droughts even against lesser opponents, will need to find ways to score consistently to even have a chance.

In the first matchup between the two teams, Devin Vassell and Victor Wembanyama dropped 29 points each, in part because their three-point shots were falling. In the second one, the Spurs outscored the Wolves inside. In both games, they had an edge in fastbreak points, and that’s what they’ll definitely need to replicate on Saturday to keep up.

The Spurs are a high-pace team, ranking third in possessions per game and seventh in fastbreak points. The Wolves like to play slow but they do turn the ball over a lot. Trying to get steals to run will be key, but attacking before the defense is settled even after dead ball situations will also be required. A good shooting night from a couple of players, a big enough disparity in fastbreak points, and San Antonio might have enough firepower to make it a game.

For the Timberwolves fan’s perspective, please visit Canis Hoopus.

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