Welp. In a game that probably wasn't as close as the final score indicates, the Wolves got absolutely blown out at home against the Spurs tonight, 116-91. On their fourth game in five nights and the second of a back to back, the Wolves simply did not have any answers for a talent laden, veteran Spurs squad who were also on the second night of a back to back and sat three Hall of Famers out to rest.
It didn't matter. As soon as the Spurs decided to get serious in the latter stages of the second quarter, the game was over. They turned up the defensive intensity, and their ball movement and intelligent offense was too much for the Wolves. The Spurs wound up shooting 55% from the field, the third time in three meetings that they have eclipsed 50%. Fair to say the Wolves are nowhere near ready to handle a team of that quality, even the short handed version.
Nobody gets a pass for tonight: The defense was absolutely, crushingly bad throughout. The starters were particularly atrocious tonight, especially defensively. I'll specifically call out Ricky Rubio, who had a particularly poor game. His timing just seemed off and he unusually failed to make the correct play far too often. But ultimately it took a team effort to perform that poorly.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the way for the Spurs with 29 points in 29 minutes, and served as yet another example of one of the Wolves' current problems: They have no acceptable power forward available. This is becoming a theme, and why I don't think the Towns-Dieng pairing is a solution long term: mobile bigs with perimeter skills are hurting them on a regular basis.
I don't mean this to throw shade on Gorgui, who got completely flattened by Aldridge tonight: he's being asked to do something beyond his physical capabilities. Aldridge. Marvin Williams. Ryan Anderson. It's emerging as a real problem, so much so tonight that Mitchell went with Adreian Payne for extra first half minutes in place of Dieng. If they could exploit it at the other end with post-ups, maybe they could get away with it, but that's not Dieng's game, and as a result, teams are taking advantage of that match up.
The match up I highlighted in the game thread also did not go well for the Wolves. Kawhi Leonard dominated Andrew Wiggins, especially in the third quarter when the Spurs blew the game open. He was everywhere, doing everything. Wiggins struggled, though his final line doesn't look that bad--23 and 8, though also five turnovers. But it took him 21 shots to get there, and he only did so by playing much of the 4th quarter garbage time when he scored 11 of his points against the Spurs 2nd and 3rd unit guys.
Finally for the Spurs, I guess I have to mention Andre Miller, who walked back into Target Center and scored a season high 13 on 5-6 from the field, and added six assists. Sigh. It was just not the Wolves night.
Zach LaVine has apparently become the Wolves iron man, and was only saved from going 40+ again tonight by the blowout, which allowed him to sit out most of the 4th quarter. I believe he played something like 33 of the first 36 minutes of the game. He shot it fairly well but was, like the entire team, a catastrophe on defense. I bring him up only to point out that Mitchell has to get him some rest regardless of how palatable or not the alternatives are. While I get that Tayshaun Prince has no future in Minnesota, he can still go out there and perform to some extent. Getting LaVine minutes is good--running him into the ground is not.
I'll finish by saying something nice: Tyus Jones played 27 minutes tonight and did well: 10 and six with no turnovers. Much of it was garbage time, but he also did well in his first half stint, helping the Wolves stay in the game with some nice play. To the extent that anyone gets praise in this one, it's the rookie PG. His defense was more or less as bad as everyone else's, but I thought on balance it was one of his better performances.
No bullet points tonight. The Wolves got beaten in all phases. Out rebounded, out shot, lost the turnover battle...it's a good thing the Spurs were not making their threes or this could have been worse.