The key for the Wolves tonight was their three point shooting, which finally saw the postitive side of variance. They shot 18-40 from beyond the arc, with nine different players connecting for at least one three. Meanwhile the Spurs shot only 5-29 on threes, and that really was the difference in the ball game.
It was overall a strong defensive performance from the Wolves, who held the Spurs to 42 percent shooting and kept them off the offensive glass, where they have been strong all season. Not allowing second chance points was another big key tonight.
But perhaps the best thing about this win was the poise the Wolves showed in not letting the game get away from them, when it could have at several points. They took control in the second quarter and led by 10 at halftime, but the Spurs hung around through the early part of the third quarter.
I rarely talk about officiating in these recaps, but tonight it played a significant role. Midway through the third, with the Wolves up eight, Karl-Anthony Towns drove toward the basket, and it appeared for all the world like his arm got grabbed. There was no call, and Towns was able to get the ball out to Robert Covington, who missed a long three. On the next possession, Towns was called for a tough offensive foul, his fourth of the game, at which point he drew an understandable technical foul. He had to go to the bench, and the Spurs slowly climbed back into the game, trailing by three at the end of the quarter.
The Spurs were within one early in the fourth when Towns got on a roll, with a driving hoop, and three pointer and one, and two more free throws. Leading 91-86 with eight minutes left, the second major officiating episode happened. Towns drove and drew what was called a blocking foul on DeMar DeRozan. Gregg Popovich challenged the call, and it was changed to a charge on Towns, his fifth, and to the bench he went again.
It should be pointed out that the Wolves did get to the line 10 more times than the Spurs, who only had 17 free throw attempts, two of which were technical fouls. The Wolves got there share of calls, but these two instances stood out as potential game changing decisions.
The Spurs actually took the lead soon after that reversal on a DeRozan bucket, but key shots from Robert Covington, Andrew Wiggins, Josh Okogie, and others won control back for the Wolves, and the Spurs went cold the rest of the night, allowing the Wolves to secure what was in the end a comfortable victory.
Let’s hit some notes:
- Keita Bates-Diop continued his hot shooting, making 4-6 threes and 6-9 overall for 16 points.
- Andrew Wiggins led the Wolves with 26, and got to the line 14 times, which was encouraging. He also made 3-5 threes.
- The Spurs were led by LaMarcus Aldridge and DeRozan, who combined for 42, but didn’t get much from anyone else.
- But really in the end, 18-5 in three point makes tells the story of this one. Used to be the Wolves on the small end of that, but not tonight.