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Game Preview: Timberwolves at Spurs
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
After reeling off three-straight wins, the Wolves (14-27) fell flat on their face Sunday against the lowly Dallas Mavericks (13-27), losing 98-87. The lone bright spot for the Timberwolves was the play of Gorgui Dieng. He tallied a season-high 21 points, while also adding 8 rebounds and a steal. Dieng also made multiple hustle plays that you love to see your big men make. The only man from the Minnesota bench to score a point in the game was Nemanja Bjelica, who had 10 points. If the Wolves want to be relatively competitive in close games, their bench will need to go back to their form during the three game win streak.
San Antonio is up to their usual quiet winning ways this season. As of now, they boast a very solid 31-9 record, good for second place in the tough Western Conference. Kawhi Leonard, the quiet star, is having another solid season, averaging 24.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. The Spurs are coming off a Mexico City loss to the Phoenix Suns, 108-105 last Saturday evening.
PG: Ricky Rubio #9
SG: Zach LaVine #8
SF: Andrew Wiggins #22
PF: Gorgui Dieng #5
C: Karl-Anthony Towns #32
PG: Tony Parker #9
SG: Danny Green #14
SF: Kawhi Leonard #2
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge #12
C: Pau Gasol #16
Timberwolves: Nikola Pekovic – out/season (recurring ankle pain)
Spurs: Dejounte Murray – out (ankle), Patty Mills – probable (calf)
The most recent meeting between these two teams came December 6, 2016 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. San Antonio walked away winners, as they improved to 13-0 on the road at the time, by score of 105-91. The Wolves did hold a 10-point lead early on in the game, but the Spurs rallied in a big way, compiling themselves an 18-point lead late in the game, while the Wolves blew yet another double-digit lead, as fans are used to seeing these days.
Kawhi Leonard gave the Timberwolves fits all night, on his way to scoring a game-high 31 points. Leonard also added four rebounds. Patty Mills chipped in 15 points off the bench, knocking down two three-pointers and adding five assists for San Antonio.
For Minnesota, Zach LaVine led the way, scoring a team-high 25 points, hitting on four three-pointers. Big man Karl-Anthony Towns secured the double-double, but did not score the way people are accustomed too. Towns finished with just 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Since December 13, the Timberwolves are 5th in defensive efficiency in the NBA, with a 103.8 defensive rating. It is a stat that can be a glimpse of hope for Wolves fans, as early on in the season, the Minnesota defense was around the bottom of the league consistently.
If the Wolves can pair that improved defense, with the improved distance shooting of Zach LaVine (.414 3P%), Andrew Wiggins (.342 3P%), and Shabazz Muhammad (.393 3P%) among others from recent years, could start the real rise of the young Wolves, and improve a much disappointing record so far on this NBA season. Defense has been an issue with the organization for multiple years now, and it would be a much needed, and appreciated, corner to finally turn.
TV: Fox Sports North – Dave Benz (play-by-play), Jim Peterson (analyst)
Radio: 830 WCCO-AM – Alan Horton (play-by-play)
(Stats found on nba.com, and basketball-reference.com)