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Wolves 128, Spurs 89: The Dismantling

The Wolves absolutely beat down the Spurs at Target Center tonight in one of their best performances in recent memory.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The first quarter ended on a bit of a sour note for the Wolves, with Patty Mills making an and-one to pull the Spurs within three. Gorgui Dieng and Robert Covington checked in to start the second quarter, meaning the Wolves were going with their primary bench lineup of Tyus Jones, Derrick Rose, Covington, Dario Saric, and Dieng. On the first possession of the second quarter, Dieng blocked a Mills shot, then made a jumper at the other end. It was a sign of things to come.

By the time the dust cleared and Andrew Wiggins checked into the game six minutes later, the Wolves’ second unit had gone on a 19-4 run, and the score was 47-29. It would only get better from there, as the Wolves extended the lead relentlessly on their way to an incredible 128-89 dismantling of the Spurs. The win moved the Wolves back to .500 at 11-11 on the season, and was without question their most impressive showing of the year, and one led by a suddenly exciting and effective bench mob.

It was an absolutely spectacular defensive performance by the Wolves, who held the Spurs to 58 points through three quarters, and an unfathomable nine points in the second quarter, thanks largely to the effort of that second unit, led by Robert Covington. As we’ve discussed at length, RoCo has completely changed the defensive attitude of the Wolves, and tonight it was shockingly apparent. Their effort and commitment throughout defensive possessions is something we just have not seen consistently since...I dunno, the original KG days? Covington was, as usual, everywhere, creating havoc defensively and on this night making his shots on offense. He finished as the leading scorer for the Wolves with 21, and was an incredible +44 in 31 minutes. It’s difficult to overstate the difference he’s made to this team.

Their help-and-recover was consistently effortful and on point, they were hunting for deflections and steals (They finished with 12 steals on the night,) their paint protection was aggressive all night, their bigs showed and recovered on pick and rolls (which is a new wrinkle for them—Towns especially had some nice examples of this,) and their close-outs were purposeful. It was a masterful defensive performance for which all deserve kudos.

In the end they held the Spurs under 40 percent from the field and forced 18 turnovers. They didn’t allow anyone to get going, and showed remarkable refusal to give up anything easy.

Offensively, the Wolves had seven players in double figures, and while they finished 18-41 from three, much of their beyond the arc damage was done after the game was decided—special shout out to Josh Okogie who made three threes in 10 minutes in garbage time. He also did this:

In truth, the Wolves were dominant in the paint in this one, with 58 points in the paint, and 22 second chance points. They moved the ball effectively, with 33 assists on 50 made baskets, made the extra pass, and generally looked quicker and more active than the Spurs, who were on the last game of a long road trip.

John is going to be back later with a Wolves Nightcap with all the reaction from the locker room, so let’s just finish this with some notes:

  • Karl-Anthony Towns had one of the best defensive performances I’ve seen from him. Protected the rim, helped and recoved, hedged on several PnRs successfully—it was everything we wanted, along with 16 points, 11 boards, and five assists. Fantastic.
  • Derrick Rose keeps making shots: 6-8 overall, 4-5 from three. 16 points on the game.
  • As I mentioned the other day, the Wolves are collecting steals at an unprecedented rate recently—another 12 tonight. It’s a major factor in their success.
  • I know it was garbage time, but Josh Okogie reminded us of why he should play. 10 minutes, 12 points on 4-7, 2 boards, 2 assists, a steal, a charge drawn, and oh yeah, three fouls. He looks like a junior RoCo.
  • The Spurs were not prepared for the second quarter onslaught, and once it happened showed no fight to try to get back into it. They were out of gas.
  • Terrific start to the home stand for the Wolves. .500 baby!