With the Timberwolves playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Spurs had a golden opportunity to take advantage and pounce on a tired opponent. Unfortunately, the good guys came out of the gates completely flat and looked like the more lethargic team, as San Antonio went 0/8 to start the game and took over four minutes to score their first basket.
As a result, the Spurs were down by as much as 20 points in the first quarter alone, which proved too large of a deficit for them to overcome. They did make things interesting by dwindling Minnesota’s lead down to single digits at certain points, but the Wolves were able to score at will for most of the night and ran away with the 115-90 victory.
- Jakob Poeltl took the court after returning from health and safety protocols, and Pop decided to ease him back into action by starting Drew Eubanks instead. Poeltl looked a bit rusty on offense and was uncharacteristically quiet in his own end, which was largely caused by the Wolves forcing him to defend on the perimeter. The big man is one of the best rim protectors in the league, but his lack of mobility makes him a liability whenever he’s not patrolling the paint, which was especially evident when Karl-Anthony Towns easily drove by him to beat the halftime buzzer.
- Since both Poeltl and Eubanks were having a hard time containing KAT, Pop decided to put Keldon Johnson on Minnesota’s centre for large stretches of the third quarter. Interestingly, Poeltl and Eubanks were still left to guard one of the Wolves’ perimeter players, so neither Spurs big man was in the best position to rotate and protect the rim to prevent opponents from driving. The experiment didn’t yield the best results, so it might be better to try a zone in the future and park Poeltl and/or Eubanks closer to the basket.
- Speaking of the third quarter, Devin Vassell went on a 5-0 run by himself at one point by hitting a three and getting a wide-open dunk following a steal. The Wolves called timeout after, and Vassell didn’t touch the ball for three consecutive possessions when play resumed. This has happened in past games too, and Pop needs to make sure that his players are mindful of who has the hot hand to keep them involved in the offense, which would’ve been especially helpful on Thursday night since Vassell finished with a game-high 18 points for the Spurs.
- On a more positive note, the Spurs’ bench continued to be one of the most proficient second units in the league and even outscored the starters 50-40 on Thursday night. Putting up just 90 total points on a below-average Wolves defense is disappointing, but I’m not too concerned about San Antonio’s attack since they won’t often shoot less than 20% (6/32) from deep.
- Pop used a couple of interesting lineups in the fourth quarter, one of which included no big man as he trotted out Keldon Johnson alongside four guards. Another featured Keita Bates-Diop as the tallest Spur on the floor, but the Spurs quickly went back to a more traditional formation by re-inserting Eubanks into the game. Neither small lineup did anything significant, but the sample size is too small to judge so it’ll be intriguing to see if Pop decides to do some more experimenting in the future.
- As mentioned before, the Spurs starters struggled mightily on Thursday night as Johnson was the only player who scored double-digits. Dejounte Murray had perhaps his worst offensive performance of the season by only putting up seven points on 2/12 shooting. He’s been remarkably consistent to start the year, though, as this was the first time that he’s failed to score at least 10 points so there shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
For the Wolves’ perspective, visit Canis Hoopus.
The Spurs will now have three days off before facing the red-hot Phoneix Suns at home on Monday night. Tip-off will be at 7:30 PM CT on Bally Sports SW-SA.