The San Antonio Spurs will head to Minnesota to take on Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves, looking to win a second-straight game.
The Spurs are about to begin a difficult six game stretch to end March. After tonight’s affair with the Timberwolves, the Spurs will host the Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and travel to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder.
With a potential number one seed on the line, the Spurs will have to near perfect during this stretch to have a fighting chance at capturing the top spot in the West. The Warriors won last night, extending their lead to 2.5 games. Spurs can cut that down 0.5 games tonight.
The Spurs enter this game with a record of 53-16, including an 8-3 record in March. However, the Spurs dropped two of the last three games, with a win coming at home against the Sacramento Kings. It’s safe to say the Spurs are not playing their best basketball right now.
The Timberwolves, on the other hand, have a record of 28-41, 4.5 games back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Although the Timberwolves have elevated their defense in recent games, they are still just 4-5 in the month of March.
This will be the fourth and final matchup between these two teams in the regular season.
The Spurs and the Timberwolves have faced off three times this season, with the Spurs winning all three games. The first matchup came on December 6th in Minnesota, where the Spurs won easily, 105-91.
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 31 points on 11-of-15 shooting, along with four assists. Patty Mills chipped in 15 points and five assists, while Pau Gasol and Kyle Anderson had 11 points each.
The Timberwolves were led by Zach LaVine, who had 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Gorgui Dieng was the second leading scorer with 16 points. KAT was held in check, scoring just 11 points on 3-of-16 from the field.
The second game in San Antonio was a bit more competitive, as the Spurs won, 122-114. Leonard again led the Spurs in scoring with 34 points on 12-of-17 shooting, including seven rebounds and five assists. LaMarcus Aldridge showed up as well, tallying 29 points on 12-of-20 shooting.
KAT came to play this game, scoring 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting, along with 16 rebounds. Ricky Rubio had 21 points and 15 assists.
The third game was also competitive, as the Spurs pulled away in overtime, winning 97-90. Leonard scored 34 points on 11-of-25 shooting, as well as 10 rebounds and five assists. Aldridge dropped 18 points and Gasol had 17 points. No one else was in double figures.
KAT led the Timberwolves in scoring again, putting up 24 on 9-of-16 shooting, along with 14 boards. Andrew Wiggins contributed 17 points, and Dieng had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Outside of the first game, the Timberwolves have managed to play the Spurs well. Unfortunately, they will be without the services of Zach LaVine, who has played a big part in their success this season.
The Spurs seem to be as healthy as they have been all season, despite the lingering injury to rookie Dejounte Murray. Manu Ginobli, who missed the last game against the Kings due to rest, is expected back tonight, ready to lead the second-unit in Minnesota.
Ultimately, this matchup comes down to the small forward position. In the first three matchups, Leonard was able to basically shut down Wiggins, holding him to 11, 10, and 17 points. Leonard, on the other hand, scored 31, 34 and 34.
KAT is clearly the Timberwolves best player, and his success is still not enough to carry his team. He was held in check in the first game, resulting in a blowout. In the following games, KAT put up 27p/16r and 24p/14r, and the Timberwolves still ended up losing both of those games.
Essentially, if the Spurs can limit Rubio’s ability to get his other teammates involved, the Spurs will come out with a victory. Unfortunately, the Spurs inability to get out to strong starts makes this game a bit more unpredictable. Those slow starts resulted in losses to the Portland TrailBlazers and Grizzlies, while giving up an early lead to the Kings, as well.
The Spurs shaky play as of late has lowered my confidence in them. However, given that the Timberwolves are without LaVine, and the Spurs are at full strength, there is no way I can pick against them tonight.
Leonard hasn’t been his usual self offensively as of late, either, which is another reason I believe he will go into Minnesota and get back on track.
The Timberwolves have elevated their defense since the all-star break, which has kept them in games when their offense has struggled. However, it’s the Spurs second-unit who will thrive tonight, since the Timberwolves are incredibly thin in terms of their depth.
If Gregg Popovich continues to tweak his rotations tonight, the Timberwolves will have a chance at winning this game. Popovich is clearly trying to figure out the best rotations for certain situations, which explains why Anderson and Jonathan Simmons have inconsistent minutes.
Overall, the Spurs are too healthy, and too rested, to lose this game tonight.
Considering the tough challenges that await them, they’d be smart to go out and get this win.
Leonard goes over 30 for the fourth straight game against the Timberwolves, and holds Wiggins under 20 points for the fourth straight time.
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Aldridge, Tony Parker, Gasol and Mills all score in double figures.
Spurs win, 103-95.