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Game Preview #4: Wolves vs Spurs

Minnesota hosts a San Antonio squad in the early stages of a youth movement

Minnesota Timberwolves v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

Game Info

What To Watch For

Respect the Game

The San Antonio Spurs were seen as a strong contender to have the worst record in the NBA coming into the season, but apparently nobody has told their players that. The Spurs sit 2-1 after winning their last two games, featuring a win over the Indiana Pacers and a shocking victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Philly on Saturday.

Now, the Wolves are still solid favorites for a reason, but the point being made all over the NBA to start the season is that you cannot take any team lightly. These teams who we deemed as the “tank teams” won’t really show the obvious signs of that until later in the season. There are schematic things to attend to tonight, but point number one is taking the opponent seriously. The Spurs do not have an A-tier prospect on their roster, but they have numerous “good” players on their roster who can make you pay if you disrespect them.

Win the Possession Battle

The Wolves are the more talented team, but the Spurs can make this one close if the some sloppy Wolves tendencies continue. The Wolves have struggled the close out defensive possessions with a rebound, ranking 22nd in the NBA in Defensive Rebound Percentage (68.4%) through three games. That is frankly an inexcusable number for a team starting Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. The Wolves need their wings to help rebound with more consistency, so seeing Anthony Edwards average eight rebounds per game thus far is a welcome sign.

In that vein, San Antonio is built to punish the Wolves if they are sloppy on the glass. Jakob Poeltl is one of the more underrated players in the league, and he especially excels on the glass and on defense. The Wolves have to make it a priority to box him out. Aside from Poeltl, players like Keldon Johnson are aggressive and active. The Spurs rank 13th in the Association in Offensive Rebounding Percentage (28.8%), so while they are not elite, they are good enough at it to make it a problem if the Wolves don’t make it a priority.

Additionally, the Wolves need to be better about taking care of the basketball. There have been too many sloppy turnovers to start the season, which is why they rank 24th in Turnover Percentage (15.4%). Some turnovers you can live with, but too many have been of the live-ball variety, which is part of why they have given up so many fastbreak points this year (16.7 per game). Defenders like Tre Jones and Devin Vassell will make you pay if you’re sloppy with the ball around them, so it’s paramount that the Wolves are intentional with the ball and make crisp passes.

Another Opportunity to Get Better

The biggest thing, opponent aside, for the Wolves is to continue to build chemistry and cohesion, particularly with the starting lineup. It’s going to take time, it always was, but the important thing is just that this group builds winning habits each time out. If they come out ready to play and give attention to details, their talent will shine tonight against an inferior opponent. It would be a welcome sign for this team to start strong and build a big lead early, and be able to sustain it over the course of a full 48 minutes. There have been flashes of brilliance from this group so far, but there are still many moments that make scratch your head. The goal is simply to improve each time out.

Specifically, what does that look like? Tonight, I think it looks like getting Karl-Anthony Towns going on offense. He’s been a nice facilitator so far, but it would be good to see his scoring volume go up. We know he can light this opponent up, for sure, as Towns scored a career-high 60-points in San Antonio last season. I’m not saying he will get 60 tonight, but it would be good to see him let it fly from the three-point line with regularity. He’s too good of a scorer to continue on this way.

On a larger scale, it would be good to see the starters take note of how naturally the second unit moved the ball last night during their big run to blow the game open. The Jordan McLaughlin - Jaylen Nowell - Anthony Edwards - Taurean Prince - Naz Reid lineup played outstanding, finding the “flow” that Chris Finch often references. That group laid out a blueprint for how every can succeed by trusting the offense, and it would be a big step forward if the starters took note of that as well.

Injury Report

Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Kyle Anderson: OUT — back spasms
  • Austin Rivers: OUT — right hip soreness
  • Josh Minott: OUT — G-League assignment
  • Luka Garza: OUT — G-League assignment

San Antonio Spurs

Nothing to report.