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Spurs 113, Wolves 112: Puzzling Lineups Lead to Fourth Quarter Meltdown

Anthony Edwards has a fantastic bounce-back game tallying 32 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds, but it’s not enough to save the Wolves from another fourth quarter disaster.

BASKET-NBA-SPURS-TIMBERWOLVES Photo by SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

For the third time this season, the Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs faced off against each other with their pair of French centers Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembanyama.

The game would get off to a weird start as a bat was on the loose just about a minute into the game. The bat would eventually be caught and taken off the court by the Spurs mascot, The Coyote, wearing a Batman costume.

With the game finally free from any animal-related distractions, the Timberwolves were able to start overwhelming the young Spurs, propelled by this incredible dunk from Anthony Edwards.

Ant gets so far up there on the dunk that he can be seen looking down at the rim as he throws it down through the rim.

After a rough game against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Anthony Edwards was fantastic in the first quarter leading the way with 12 points with Karl-Anthony Towns on the bench with two fouls. The Wolves would finish the quarter on a 24-5 run, securing a 13-point lead after the first frame.

Coming out of the break, Wembanyama would show why he was such a highly-coveted draft prospect with one of the most insane dribble moves you’ll see from someone over seven feet tall.

The Wolves offense would continue their hot shooting in the second as they would finish the first half shooting 62.5% from the floor and 61.5% from beyond the arc. They scored 64 first half points, fueling to a 12-point halftime lead.

Ant closed out the first half strong with a flurry of baskets including this pull-up triple coming off a Gobert screen.

The game would remain close in the third quarter with the Wolves carrying over a ten-point lead into the final quarter. To start the fourth, the Spurs would come out blazing hot going on a 13-2 run to take the lead.

The lineup on the floor for Minnesota was a large reason for the San Antonio run. Having Jordan McLaughlin, Shake Milton, Kyle Anderson, and Rudy Gobert on the court at the same time is just a recipe for disaster.

Timberwolves Head Coach Chris Finch would call timeout to switch up the lineup, but the damage was already done and the Spurs were back in the game. The game would go back and forth down with the Spurs eventually taking a five-point lead with just under two minutes left.

An Edwards three-pointer, two missed free throws by Wembanyama, and a layup by Ant allowed the Wolves to tie the game, but with nine seconds remaining, Jaden McDaniels committed an un-needed foul on Keldon Johnson, who hit one of two free throws to giving the Spurs the lead.

Towns was unable to hit a tough shot to win the game at the buzzer as the Wolves lose a brutal one 113-112 to the Spurs.


Key Takeaways

Minnesota Timberwolves v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Another Fourth Quarter Collapse

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been the worst team in the fourth quarter in the NBA so far this month and that trend continued tonight in San Antonio.

After giving away an 11-point fourth quarter lead to the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, and nearly blowing a 12-point lead against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, the Timberwolves again cannot put a team away after leading by double-digits in the fourth and give the Spurs only their tenth win on the season.

This time it was less about the offensive struggles in the final frame, but the defense that was unable to put the game away. The Spurs shot 13-20 from the field in the final quarter including five made three-pointers.

San Antonio did his same very tough shots, but that is what happens in this league when you let a team hang around. Even bad teams have good players that can go on a run if you give them confidence.

The game was ultimately lost after a foul by Jaden McDaniels that, given the time and score, came at a very inopportune time. With nine seconds left, McDaniels fouled Johnson in a tie game with only 1.1 seconds left on the shot clock.

It is just another example of Minnesota not making smart plays down the stretch of games, costing them wins. These mistakes often seem to come far more often when Mike Conley is out of the game like he was tonight, but the Wolves have to find a way to play smarter and rely less on their 36-year-old point guard to save them.


Minnesota Timberwolves v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Questionable Rotations

To start both the second and fourth quarters, Chris Finch decided on a lineup that had very little spacing or offensive creation on it. McLaughlin, Milton, Anderson, and Gobert were all on the floor together and it led to disastrous outcomes both times.

To start the second, Towns was on the floor with that group. KAT struggled to score in the paint as there was no spacing, and the Spurt immediately cut the Wolves 13-point lead to six.

To start the fourth, Finch rolled with those same four non-shooters, but this time had Naz Reid join them. It went even worse with the Spurs going on a 10-2 run to cut the lead to two in what ended up being a catalyst for the Wolves collapse.

Both of these rotation decisions just seem puzzling especially after it went so poorly the first time. In the game McLaughlin, Milton, Anderson, and Gobert shared the floor for 6.5 minutes together and were a -15 during that time.

With Mike Conley out Finch was going to have to play someone who isn’t in the normal rotation, but for that player to be Milton and for it to be with teammates who also struggle to shoot is a rotation decision that is confusing at best.

Troy Brown Jr. could have been the option to be put in the game as he could have provided shooting scoring and ball movement into a lineup that desperately needed it.

As the Wolves look for ways to avoid poorly down the stretch of games, spacing has to become a bigger part of the formula. Having that many players on the court who struggle with their outside shot is just asking for stagnation on offense.


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

Towns-Gobert Pick-and-Roll

Another reason the Wolves struggle on offense late in games is they don’t often run quality plays to break them out of their ruts. They often opt for a more free-flow offense that looks great when it’s humming but can lead to bad stretches.

One action that was working earlier in the game was running pick-and-roll with Towns as the ball handler and Gobert as the screener. The Spurs were struggling to guard that action and the Wolves were making them pay.

Here Towns pump fakes a pass before swinging it to Jaden in the corner for an open three.

The defense has to respect both Towns’ ability to shoot the ball and Gobert’s size and strength rolling to the rim so when Devin Vassell takes one step too far down into the paint, that leaves his man open.

A few possessions later, Wembanyama doesn’t pick up Towns driving to the rim as he’s trying to take away the lob to Rudy, and KAT drives right past him for the layup.

These are the types of plays Minnesota could and should be running down the stretch of games. Identify an area of weakness in the opposing defense and attack it until the other team shows they can stop it.


Up Next

The Wolves will travel to Oklahoma City for a Monday night matchup with the Thunder in the fourth and final regular season meeting between the top-two teams in the Western Conference. Fans can watch the game at 7 PM CT on Bally Sports North.

Monday night’s contest will wrap up a four-game road trip, as the Timberwolves will return home for a three-game homestand against solid competition, including the Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic, and Houston Rockets.


Highlights