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Wolves vs. Spurs Preview/Game Thread

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This doesn’t feel like a game thread, they said.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Philadelphia 76ers
“I am secretly the best stretch 4 in the league. Go tell Tom before the game starts.”
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Without looking at the pre-game materials the Wolves always send out in the afternoon during game days, or heading over to basketball reference, my guess is the Wolves record vs. the Spurs is alarmingly bad over the past decade. I can’t remember the last time they beat them. It feels like they never beat them. That savvy coach Popovich and his evil empire down in south-central Texas always find a way to win, whether their best players are actually on the court or not.

Alright, time to go check...

Oh, lord. Timberwolves PR notes that the Wolves trail the all-time series 28-85 and are 19-37 at home. The Spurs won the first matchup this season, 107-99, at AT&T Center (that was the season opener) and San Antonio has won 12 straight games in the series. Perhaps tonight can be the end of that streak? The Spurs also happen to be the only team to hold the Wolves under 100 points this season, so that probably can’t happen again if they want to win.

Time for a quick story.

My attitude towards the Spurs dramatically changed in the 2014 NBA Finals, when they beat the Heat a year after losing the Finals to them in a pretty dramatic fashion; diehard NBA fans will never forget that amazing corner 3 from Ray Allen in Game 6, thanks to Chris Bosh’s offensive rebound and kick out. I always disliked the Spurs because growing up in Minnesota as a basketball fan there were endless Duncan vs. KG debates...who was better? Remember the Love vs. Aldridge debates back in the day? Those didn’t even touch KG vs. TD. They were constantly compared because they were the two best and similar in many ways. 7-footers (or 6-13"), both number 21, the star and leader of their respective teams, etc. Duncan always had the awards and titles, while KG carried teams with little talent in comparison.

I truly envied what the Spurs achieved growing up. But when they came back a year after heartbreak to beat Miami in 5 games, and broke up the Heatles in the process, I couldn’t help but respect their body of work. (Being an older, maybe wiser basketball viewer...up for debate...might have played a role in this as well.) Ever since then I’ve grown to appreciate what the Spurs are all about, top to bottom as an organization. It gets old hearing about how Player X would be outstanding and find themselves or truly excel in San Antonio but that’s also part of the reason my tone towards them shifted as the years passed by. They are the anti-Wolves.

Anyway, the Wolves and Spurs are playing again tonight and this game will act as another excellent test to see exactly where this team sits in the West.

Game Details

Wolves (8-5, 4-1 Home) vs. Spurs (9-5, 3-3 Away)
7 CT @ Target Center
TV: FSN
Spread: Wolves -5 (6-6-1 ATS)
Over/Under: 209.5
Last 5 games: Wolves 3-2, Spurs 4-1

QUESTIONABLE: Cole Aldrich - Sprained Left Ankle
DOUBTFUL: Gorgui Dieng - Sprained Right Index Finger
OUT: Justin Patton - Recovery from Left Foot Surgery

Notes (via @Twolves_PR)

  • The Wolves have scored 100+ points in a club-record 12 consecutive games. Minnesota is 5-0 when holding opponents below 100 points.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns has recorded a double-double in 10 games this season (124 career). On Monday, Towns became just the second player (Dwight Howard) to attain 3000 points and 2000 rebounds before turning 22. Among all-time leaders for players under 22, Towns, who turns 22 today, ranks eighth in points scored, third in rebounds, second in double-doubles, second in 20+ point/10+ rebound games, fifth in 30+ point games and sixth in 20+ point games.
  • Towns ranks 20th in the NBA in scoring (20.9 ppg), eighth in rebounding (11.2 rpg), fifth in blocks (1.77 bpg), 19th in FG accuracy (54.4%) and third in double-doubles (10).
  • Jimmy Butler recorded the ninth 20+ point/10+ assist effort of his career Monday at Utah. He has attempted 26 free throws the last two games after attempting five in his three previous games. Butler ranks 16th in the NBA in steals (1.64 spg) and ninth in minutes (36.2 mpg). The Wolves are 8-3 with Butler in the lineup.
  • Jeff Teague is averaging 15.6 ppg and 8.5 apg in the Wolves’ eight wins. He ranks sixth in the NBA in assists (7.5 apg) and eighth in steals (1.85 spg).
  • Andrew Wiggins is shooting 51.4% (37-72) from the field over the last five games. He has tallied eight steals in the last three games.
  • Taj Gibson has recorded double-doubles in four of the last six games, averaging 12.7 ppg, on 55.6% shooting, and 10.0 rpg over that span. He ranks 16th in the NBA in field goal percentage at 54.9%.
  • Nemanja Bjelica ranks first in the NBA in three-point accuracy at 53.1% (17-32). He is shooting 70.0% (14-20) at Target Center this season.
  • The Wolves have attempted more free throws than their opponent in all 13 games this season and are outscoring their opponent at the line by a league-best margin of +7.85 ppg, currently the best margin in NBA history (+7.77 ppg, 1981-82 Denver Nuggets).
  • The Spurs rank third in the NBA in points allowed at 99.0 ppg and ninth in point differential (+3.6). San Antonio ranks third is assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.60.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge has tallied 20+ points in 11 of 14 games and ranks 16th in the NBA in scoring at 22.5 ppg. He has scored 30+ points two times this year.
  • San Antonio’s bench has outscored the opposition’s bench in 12 of 14 games this season, including the last eight games.

Prediction

The Spurs will win in a landslide.

***If you’re still reading I say this not because I believe it but I am trying something new tonight. In my experience, if I predict the Wolves will win a game on Canis Hoopus, or on Twitter, they almost certainly will lose. Thus, I am trying to reverse this trend by saying the Wolves have almost no shot to beat the superior Spurs tonight. They will not end the 12 game losing streak to Popovich’s White Walkers. I don’t see basically any way the Wolves can win this one. I can’t see it happening. Nope. Not on the BIG KATs 22nd birthday. Can’t see it. Jimmy won’t completely go off on Kyle Anderson and lead the charge alongside Bounce Bro, Drew Wiggins. The rest of the crew—Jeff, Taj, Belly, Jamal, Tyus, and the bench mob that never touches the floor unless there’s 1-2 minutes left—will not be good enough to win. House San Antonio is too smart to be defeated, even in the North.