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Wolves at Spurs: Contrasting Styles

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The Timberwolves face off with the Spurs in San Antonio

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves at Spurs

7:30pm CST

FS North

There may not be a more respected franchise in the NBA than the San Antonio Spurs, but man, it has been rough for Gregg Popovich’s crew this season. It feels very, very weird for the Timberwolves to be the playoff contender and San Antonio the bottom-dweller of this match up. It’s been a long time-if ever-that could be said.

That’s the reality, though. Minnesota sits at 9-8 while San Antonio is just 6-12. Even with all of that, Minnesota is still a three-point underdog in San Antonio tonight in a game that Minnesota could really use.

It’ll be the second game of the full-time commitment to the new starting five, and should be a good test for that unit.

Specifically, it should be a good test for Andrew Wiggins and Jarrett Culver.

The Spurs don’t own the most suffocating defense in the NBA due to players such as DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, but there are some phenomenal individual defenders on this team, namely Dejounte Murray and Derrick White.

Both Murray and White harass opposing ball-handlers, and could present problems for Wiggs and Culver. We’ve seen an improved handle from Wiggins thus far, but that will be put to the test tonight. If Minnesota’s primary ball-handlers aren’t careful, White and Murray will pick their pockets early and often.

That matchup is one that may swing in the Spurs’ favor, but there is one major one that should go Minnesota’s way.

For one, stop me if you’ve heard this before, but this team has no answer for Karl-Anthony Towns. There aren’t many teams who do, but San Antonio is probably going to spend a good amount of time with LaMarcus Aldridge guarding KAT. Given that Aldridge is not a standout on the glass either, this could be one of those monster KAT games, although Pop generally has a game plan to cover up weaknesses.

Where this game will likely be decided is in the mid-range. Most teams, the Timberwovles included, have done their best to move away from the mid-range as a main source of their offense. The natural reaction to this is for defenses to sell-out more to take away the three-point line and deter shots from the rim, leaving the mid-range more open.

Well, San Antonio wants to take those mid-range shots. It’s where DeRozan and Aldridge have made their entire careers. DeRozan in particular lives there, as he’s basically given up on adding a three-point shot to his game (0.2 3PA/gm).

It’ll be interesting to see how committed the Wolves are to allowing those shots. In general, their defensive scheme is set up to, in theory, make teams take the shots they don’t normally want to take. That won’t be the case tonight, and I’m not sure whether they are going to stay within their system or adjust to defend what San Antonio specifically wants to do. We’ve seen some really good guards score at will against Minnesota, and while DeRozan is not in that class of players, he’s good enough at that one specific skill to cause some problems.

I think the Wolves do find a way to win tonight, but I’m really going to enjoy watching the Spurs bench. Most SA lineups with one or both of DeRozan and Aldridge have been pretty bad this season, but the lineups without either of them have been pretty good. The Wolves will really have to defend the three-point line against that unit, as players like Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli will torch them if left alone.

Take care of the ball, play through KAT as much as possible, and get out of San Antonio with another good win on the road.

Projected Lineups

Spurs

Derrick White

Bryn Forbes

DeMar DeRozan

LaMarcus Aldridge

Jakob Poetl

Wolves

Jarrett Culver

Andrew Wiggins

Treveon Graham

Robert Covington

Karl-Anthony Towns

Our friends over at Pounding the Rock have the Spurs story.