Minnesota Timberwolves Howl Back, Rout Spurs 128-89
Going into Wednesday night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, the Minnesota Timberwolves came into the game on a three game winning streak. The Timberwolves, though, don’t have the best record over the last 15 games against San Antonio by going 1-14.
Since the Jimmy Butler trade they went from one of the last ranked defenses to the 2nd ranked defense in the league since the trade. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has finally allowed switching on defense, which was an issue for them earlier on in the season.
Both teams have a similar situation in the fact that they have both recently traded team superstars. Kawhi Leonard (along with Danny Green) was traded to the Toronto Raptors for scoring machine DeMar Derozan and Jakob Poetl. Butler was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Jerryd Bayless. Both teams have gone in different directions. Surprisingly enough the Timberwolves have been on fire and the Spurs have been struggling.
Both teams started the game solid. A lot of back and forth scoring for the most part throughout the first quarter. Then the second quarter came along for the Timberwolves and everything just seemed to click. Every aspect of the Timberwolves game was on point and fluid. With smothering team defense led by Covington and Karl Anthony-Towns, and lights out 3 point shooting gave the Timberwolves a huge burst. They held the Spurs to just nine points in the quarter while scoring 29 points themselves. The timberwovles went into halftime with a 57-34 lead.
The third quarter started and it was the same story for both teams. The Spurs were struggling out of the gate and the Timberwolves kept up the intensity. Stupid turnovers and forced three pointers to get back into the game were the death of San Antonio. They couldn’t get back into rhythm.
Once the fourth quarter started the Timberwolves were pretty much in cruise control. Coach Thibodeau did a rare feat for him by taking the starters out early and put the bench players in to protect the starters from injuries. Usually under Thibodeau the starters are drilled into the ground until the end of the game.
The Timberwolves are trying to show that they are trying to leap in the playoff race, now pushing themselves at .500 with an 11-11 record. The home stand the Timberwolves have been on has been super useful for them to integrate Covington and Saric into their system. The best way to do that is at home where you have the fans cheering for you.
This game was also the game where Thibodeau actually went 13 players deep in stead of his usual 8-9 man rotation. The only two players who played more than 30 minutes were Covington with 31 and Andrew Wiggins with 30. Everyone got into the action and contributions were coming from everywhere. No one’s game really stood out because of it.
The Timberwolves held the Spurs to just 39.5% from the field and 30% from deep. The Spurs biggest threat, Derozan, was held to 10 points, which is way below his season average of 24 points a game. Covington and Wiggins took turns on the night shutting him down. The switching the Timberwolves were doing on defense was also stopping Spurs big man Lamarcus Aldridge.
Numbers of The Night
The Timberwolves had a season high in assists with 33 on the night and because of that everyone minus one player scored. It’s great to hear considering the bench use that Thibodeau has. Some players like veteran Luol Deng even played their first minutes and scored their first points of the season. Many of those assists also led to 3-pointers, where Minnesota shot 18-41 from deep.
The Timberwolves fans were also happy to finally see rookie fan favorite Josh Okogie get more minutes. He had lost minutes and his role in the rotation for some reason since the Butler trade. In the modest 10 minutes on the court, Okogie scored 12 points, nailing a handful of three pointers, and a ferocious dunk that got everyone on the bench jumping and the crowd roaring.
Running on a four game win streak and reaching .500 again, the Timberwolves still have three more games on their home stand. The Timbewolves will be battling the struggling Boston Celtics on Saturday, Houston Rockets on Monday, and Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. Those games will be tough for the Timberwolves, but now teams have to worry about them again.
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