Wolves (14-17) at Spurs (17-15)
In a season full of drama, excitement, disappointment, and uncertainty, there has been one constant in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ campaign: Their inability to win on the road. Sitting with an ugly 2-12 road record thus far, the Wolves get another chance to begin the rectifying process on Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
When the two teams last faced off in late November tilt, Minnesota absolutely hammered a listless Spurs. The night finished with a 128-89 scoreline, which was just the 30th victory in 117 attempts against the Wolves’ Texan foes.
With that victory still fresh in the mind, it would seem like an easy night for Minnesota. However, Gregg Popovich’s squad has transformed their season in the last few weeks, and predict to be a tough outing for Tom Thibodeau’s road-deficient unit.
In the month of December, San Antonio has registered a 7-3 win-lost record. In that stretch, they are shooting a blistering 52.8 percent from the field and 43.7 percent from behind the 3-point arc. With all those made baskets, it’s not surprising that their offensive rating (118.8) ranks as the league’s premier mark in those 10 games, too.
That daunting offense is led by DeMar DeRozan, who is in his usual All-Star form. He is averaging 23.3 points per game on the best field goal percentage he has posted since his rookie year. On top of that, he is putting up career-highs in rebounds (5.6) and assists (6.2) per night. By his side is LaMarcus Aldridge, who is still able to kill teams on any given night, as well as a host of effective role players.
If Minnesota stand any chance of improving their brutal road record, they have to unleash every inch of defensive effort they can muster up. If recent history is any indication, it will be a tough ask. Minnesota currently hold a 114.5 defensive rating in road games, compared to 105.2 in the warm embrace of Target Center.
Fans will be looking for bounce back games from Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, who both struggled mightily in their previous outings. They will also be hoping Derrick Rose can continue his season-long hot streak, although maybe with a little bit less isolation-heavy basketball than he has produced of late.
After a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night, the Wolves will be desperate for a win. In a brutally deep western conference falling four games under .500 would a particularly deep hole to climb out of. They will be looking to replicate November 29th when they blasted the Spurs out of the park, but the NBA doesn’t work that way, and it will be a staunch opponent standing in their way.
It’s unlikely that the Spurs injury report will change much from their previous month of games, with Pau Gasol (foot), Lonnie Walker (knee) and DeJounte Murray (knee) all expected to be sidelined. For Minnesota, Jeff Teague has already been ruled out for a third straight game with ankle inflammation. Yes, that means we are very likely to see the boundless energizer bunny that is Josh Okogie. Thank you Lord.
Check out our pals over at Pounding The Rock for a Spurs point of view.