- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (4-2) at San Antonio Spurs (4-2)
- When: 6:10 PM CT
- TV: NBA TV, Bally Sports North Extra (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves -6 | Total: 238.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
What To Watch For
There’s not a ton we don’t already know about this year’s San Antonio Spurs, given this is the third matchup between these two teams in the last week. But, they will look a bit different tonight as they complete the October trilogy with the Wolves.
First-round pick Jeremy Sochan is out with a non-COVID illness; reliable veteran guard Josh Richardson is sitting out with lower back tightness; Devin Vassell is once again out with left knee soreness; finally, the team waived 2021 first-round pick Joshua Primo on Thursday for allegedly exposing himself to women on multiple occasions, according to ESPN.
Despite all of those absences, Minnesota is favored by six points, a line shorter than the first and second battles of the week with San Antonio.
Karl-Anthony Towns, the Connector
The last time the Timberwolves took a trip down to San Antonio, Karl-Anthony Towns delivered the game of a lifetime.
last time KAT played in San Antonio, this happened:— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 30, 2022
61% FROM THE FIELD.
63% FROM THREE. pic.twitter.com/X1VAM3mk4v
This time around, he’s flanked by fellow three-time All-Star Rudy Gobert with a new-look team that is asking him to play a new offensive role: the connector.
Towns’s passing has flourished with an increased playmaking responsibility for two main reasons. First, he is making his passing reads quicker this year than ever before. It’s a crucial development in expanding his effectiveness on the block, where he is double teamed more than single covered. Next, his teammates are moving much better without the ball as cutters. Their increased activity, paired with Gobert, pressures defenses in a way that forces them to choose between Gobert and the cutters; teams are more frequently electing to take away the former first, opening opportunities for Jaden McDaniels and D’Angelo Russell to score easily at the rim.
The way he attracts attention on the block not only opens things up for cutters, but makes it easier for Anthony Edwards to drive against rotating defenses, allows Gobert to dive to the front of the rim against single coverage, and creates open catch-and-shoot 3s for floor spacers such as Taurean Prince and Jaylen Nowell.
It’s early, I know, but Towns’s career-high 5.5 assists per game average looks to be both for real and the key to unlocking the highest potential of this offense.
Ant Man + Gobzilla = Destruction
Early in the season, it looked as if Anthony Edwards still didn’t know Rudy Gobert was his teammate. Edwards only used Gobert as a means of getting to the rim, but often missed his All-NBA teammate when Gobert was open on his drives. Instead, Edwards continually took very contested layups with mixed results.
Now, the All-Star-to-be is evolving his patience. Edwards is improving the way he sets up Gobert’s screens, looking for the big man more on rolls, and showing a willingness to score out of the two-man game not just at the rim, but at all three levels.
If that trend continues Edwards could very well be looking at a sustainable scoring average in the high 20s, with an additional very easy 2-3 assists thrown in on top of the career-high 4.2 per game he is currently averaging.
The big man is learning, too.
Seemingly game-by-game Gobert looks more comfortable operating with Edwards, especially, and is quickly adapting how he attacks the offensive glass when Edwards drives. That development is an important one, because it adds more value to those drives. Not only do defenses have to deal with one of the most dynamic downhill attackers in the league, but they also have to deal with the league’s top rebounder, too.
In addition to that, Gobert has become a safety valve on those drives, as well. When Edwards gets walled off, he doesn’t just look to kick it out for 3s. He’s looking more and more inside first, before hitting shooters, against loaded-up defenses.
Look for those two to help get each other going in the two-man game before getting back to close out the game.
Will the Wolves Choose to Rebound and Play Transition Defense?
The most pressing question at this stage of the season will become a nightly one until Minnesota proves otherwise.
Head coach Chris Finch’s group ranks 26th in defensive rebound percentage (68.3%), 27th in opponent second chance scoring (17.7 PPG), and 24th in opponent fast break points allowed (17.7 PPG).
Energy and effort go hand-in-hand. Minnesota needs to improve in the crucial hustle categories if they want to ensure they capitalize on their near-nightly talent advantage and string wins together, no matter who the opponent is.
Getting back Kyle Anderson, who has missed the team’s last five games with back spasms, will help in both of those departments.
- Luka Garza (two-way contract)
- Jordan McLaughlin (right heel soreness)
- Josh Minott (G-League assignment)
- Wendell Moore Jr. (G-League assignment)
- Josh Richardson (lower back tightness)
- Jeremy Sochan (non-COVID illness)
- Devin Vassell (right knee soreness)