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Game Preview #10: Wolves vs Spurs

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A few stars will miss the second leg of this series

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Minnesota Timberwolves David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves vs Spurs

7:00 pm CST

FS North / WCCO Radio

First things first, the bad news is that Karl-Anthony Towns is out tonight (wrist), as is DeMar DeRozan (personal reasons). It’s always a bummer when good players are out, speaking purely as a viewer interested in watching good basketball.

In Minnesota’s case, this is a bit bigger of a bummer since they had a chance to win last night with Towns, and now must try to salvage a win without him. That’s obviously not ideal.

While we’re on Towns, let me just say this. I’ve already seen some confusion regarding his availability for tonight, and I just don’t really want to hear it. The guy played two weeks into what was an estimated six-to-eight week recovery. I’d assume his wrist is unbearably sore today. Choosing to focus on the fact that he can’t play tonight feels disingenuous given that he had no business even being out there last night. If all Minnesota can get from Towns is one leg of a B2B, then that’s just the way it’s going to be until this thing really heals.

Outside of Towns, though, we’re really reaching put-up-or-shut-up time. The Wolves are clear underdogs without KAT, but it’s inexcusable to drop both legs of this B2B against a middling San Antonio team. We’ve made enough excuses for the coaching staff, front office, and other players. It’s time for everyone else to come through.

Tonight, what does that look like?

For one, they need the good D’Angelo Russell. Part of accepting Russell’s game is accepting that he just is not someone who gets to the rim or free-throw line with any frequency, and because of that, there will be wild swings in efficiency. When you’re not Stephen Curry, relying so heavily on jumpers will do that to you. Even without DeRozan, Minnesota will need the best version of Russell to win.

Along with Russell, Minnesota needs his running mate, Malik Beasley, to get hot and stay hot from 3 while playing adequate defense. Without KAT providing solid rim protection, Minnesota’s perimeter defense becomes that much more important. Beasley will play a large role in determining how Minnesota defends tonight.

On the subject of defense, Ryan Saunders will need to mix it up tonight. I don’t think they’ll be able to cover LaMarcus Aldridge one-on-one without KAT. I’d expect to see quite a bit of zone again, although I’m concerned that San Antonio will have their adjustments ready for that after just seeing it last night.

That’s really my biggest concern, honestly. Sure, the Wolves will be less talented than the Spurs tonight, but I don’t really think the talent gap is THAT large. I’m concerned that the second leg tonight will be about adjustments and coaching, and I think even the largest of Ryan Saunders’ supporters would admit this is a coaching mismatch.

Either way, to me, this would qualify as a “must-win.” Minnesota has two winnable games against a beaten up Memphis team on the horizon, and they can’t afford to lose both of these games at home. If this team wants to be at all in the playoff picture even a week from now, they cannot afford to drop to 2-8. Thankfully, Josh Okogie is back tonight, so that will help, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

Winner of the Day

I included a little bit of gambling fun in my previews during the 2018-19 season as a way to stay entertained during a lost season, and I’m bringing it back this year. Some nights it’ll be a simple spread or over/under pick, some nights it’ll be a fun player prop. Who really knows.

My last pick was back in the Portland game, where taking the under proved to be incredibly stupid. We’re 0-2, and neither of our bets have been particularly close. Is it time to start fading myself? Maybe.

As always, this is merely for fun, and is in no way a recommendation on what to gamble on, or to gamble at all. (If you have a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER).

The pick: D’Angelo Russell over 21.5 points (-115)

Without KAT, Minnesota badly needs Russell to score the ball, and do so efficiently. He didn’t shoot it very well last night, so I’m banking on a bounce back performance this time out. The biggest hurdle to clear could be just keeping the game competitive. I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer, but the KAT-less games just haven’t been very competitive yet. Hopefully this one at least remains competitive, and Minnesota will need Russell to score it well for that to happen.

Projected Lineups

Spurs

Dejounte Murray

Keldon Johnson

Rudy Gay

Trey Lyles

LaMarcus Aldridge

Timberwolves

D’Angelo Russell

Malik Beasley

Jarrett Culver

Juancho Hernangomez

Ed Davis