Maybe all that talk about San Antonio “tanking” during a rebuilding season was a bit premature. The Spurs will carry plenty of confidence and momentum when they play the new-look Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday in the first of a two-game mini-series in Minneapolis.
The teams will also square off on Wednesday.
The Spurs roll into the Twin Cities after an impressive 114-105 road victory in Philadelphia on Saturday. That win was San Antonio’s second on the road in two nights after a victory against the Pacers in Indianapolis on Friday.
Devin Vassell led the Spurs with 22 points against Philadelphia, while Keldon Johnson added 21 and Tre Jones scored 17, including San Antonio’s final eight in the game. Doug McDermott came off the bench to tally 14 points, Jakob Poeltl had 13 points and 12 rebounds and Josh Richardson contributed 11 points for the Spurs.
“We’re learning we can play with anyone,” McDermott said. “We didn’t get complacent. We came out and beat a really good team. I think it’s great for everyone’s confidence.”
The Spurs led by eight points heading to the fourth period before Philadelphia rallied to go up 88-87 with 8:04 to play. San Antonio then produced a 15-2 run capped by a free throw by Johnson with 4:42 remaining and the 76ers never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
“They showed me they are serious about getting a better understanding of what the league is like,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said after the win. “For young guys, it was pretty impressive to play as hard as they did.”
San Antonio has captured the first two contests of a four-game road trip that will continue, and conclude, with games against the Timberwolves on Monday and Wednesday.
Minnesota has matched the Spurs’ start to the year, also winning for the second time in three games via a 116-106 victory on the road against Oklahoma City on Sunday. Anthony Edwards scored 30 points and took 11 rebounds to lead the Timberwolves and record his second straight 30-point game.
Karl-Anthony Towns added 15 points and Rudy Gobert had 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the win. Naz Reid and Jaylen Nowell added 14 points each and Taurean Prince and Jaden McDaniels scored 11 points apiece.
The Timberwolves never trailed in Sunday’s win, but Oklahoma City drew to within 75-74 with 2:47 to play in the third quarter before Minnesota ended the period with a 7-0 run. The Timberwolves would build their lead to as many as 22 points three times in the fourth quarter and cruised to the finish line.
Both of the Timberwolves’ wins have been versus the Thunder — with an overtime loss at home to Utah sandwiched in between.
When Minnesota has been at its best this year, it’s been good on defense. With Gobert, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (who was traded for in the offseason) prowling the paint, the opposition has been hesitant to drive the lane. That has put added emphasis on perimeter defense and running shooters off the 3-point line.
“I certainly thought we played with a lot of purpose (in Sunday’s win),” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “Some of the small things that have been bothering us we have to get better at it, and we’ve still got ways to go. We really liked the offense. In general, we looked organized. We look like we had purpose and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
–Field Level Media