Wolves (25-36) at Spurs (47-13)
8:00 CST FS North
Current Season Series: Spurs 2 wins, Wolves 0 wins
Things have been a little weird recently. It’s March and the Wolves season isn’t quite technically “over” yet. The Wolves are doing this thing where they are not only winning games, but winning them in a sustainable manner. They are playing like a team that is legitimately good, not just a team that is taking advantage of blowing out bad teams.
For example, in the post All-Streak Period last year, which was heralded as the vision of bright things to come, the Wolves went 12-16, with the 11th best offensive rating in the league (and 26th worst defensive rating). The team’s overall net rating was -2.0, which was still 20th in the league during that period.
That team was also decent-looking with the four factors, but nothing groundbreaking. They were primarily floating along due to their hot shooting and by getting to the free throw line. That team was 9th in EFG, 3rd in Free Throw Rate, 27th in Turnover Percentage, and 16th in ORB.
From exactly one month ago to today, which corresponds to when Zach LaVine went down, the Wolves have gone 6-5 with the 3rd best offensive rating in the league, and the 17th worst defensive rating, but their net rating is 7.0, which is 4th in the league.
The team’s four factors over this last month have the Wolves 8th in EFG, 12th in Free Throw Rate, 7th in Turnover Percentage, and 3rd in ORB.
At this point, at least over the last month, the Wolves have been a legitimately good team. That is a really big deal.
However, the only problem for tonight is that the Spurs are also a demonstrably better team and they have this guy named Kawhi Leonard who has been doing absurd things this year.
Here he is last night. When the Spurs were done three points with about 50 seconds left and Kawhi just picks Jrue Holiday’s pocket and gets an easy bucket at the other end.
The Spurs went on to win that game in overtime, 101-98, and Kawhi finished with the stat line of 31 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. He has been playing at an MVP-caliber level for much of the year, while he is also still one of the front-runners for defensive player of the year.
Surprisingly, and good for the fans who want to watch a competitive game, the Spurs will only be resting Manu Ginobili tonight after last night’s late game. The Wolves should certainly be better rested than the Spurs, as the Spurs will be returning from last night’s game in New Orleans.
But that does not mean the Wolves will necessarily have a better chance as the Spurs are simply one of the best three to four teams in the NBA (as they have been for over a decade). While the Wolves have been performing great the last month or so, the Spurs have been at that level all year long. They are currently 2nd in the NBA in overall net rating at 9.1. They have the best defense in the league, which shall prove quite the test for the recent 20-point scoring streaks of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Wiggins, in particular, will have to deal with Kawhi on both ends of the floor, which will certainly push the limits of Wiggins’ abilities.
Overall, tonight will be the toughest test so far of the recently improved Timberwolves team.
Expected Starting Lineups
Injuries - Zach LaVine, Nikola Pekovic, and Adreian Payne
Injuries - Manu Ginobili
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