The San Antonio Spurs notched what has to be considered their best win of the season on Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The victory improved the Spurs to 10-36, while the Timberwolves — who entered the game atop the Western Conference — fell to 32-14.
Early on, things weren’t looking good for the good guys. The Spurs played poorly in the closing minutes of the first quarter and were down 36-23 heading into the second period. The T-Wolves were able to keep the Spurs at arm’s length into the fourth quarter.
Entering the fourth, the Spurs were down ten points, 90-80. San Antonio scored the first seven points of the quarter to finally make the contest competitive once more. A 5-0 run by Jeremy Sochan gave the Spurs the lead midway through the period.
With three minutes remaining, Devin Vassell made a layup to put the Spurs up by two points, 109-107. A minute later, Victor Wembanyama drained a three-pointer to give San Antonio a five-point lead. Unfortunately for the Silver and Black, Minnesota responded with five points to tie the game with 32 seconds remaining.
On the next possession, Keldon Johnson battled for an offensive rebound, got fouled and split a pair of free throws with nine seconds left. The Timberwolves had one final chance but the Spurs got a stop to seal the win.
All in all, it was a great win. The Spurs had to make countless big plays in the fourth quarter and San Antonio exhibited an exciting amount of maturity in doing so. This is a young team growing up before our very eyes. Let’s hope this game will be remembered as a turning point.
Stats: Spurs vs. Timberwolves
Spurs vs. Timberwolves – Final Grades
In the first half, Wembanyama was what kept the Spurs from getting blown out. He hit all four of his shots in the first quarter and had 16 points and four assists at halftime. When the rookie was on the bench, the Spurs looked like a disaster of a basketball team. During winning time, Wembanyama authored a few key plays. He hit a momentous three-pointer, had an important block, rebounded well and made the right passes. Wembanyama missed a pair of clutch free throws but kept his chin up and continued to play smart, tough and under control. Overall, he didn’t have a flawless game but the 7-foot-forever big man competed and put the team on his back for large swaths of the contests.
A lot of good stuff by Vassell. He shot well from the field despite taking a plethora of difficult field goal attempts. Vassell had seven points in the fourth quarter when the Spurs needed players to step up. Throughout the contest, his passing was very good. Vassell’s connection with Wembanyama is getting better and better. Defensively, he was better than usual and communicated very well.
Offensively, it was a unique outing for Sochan. Until the fourth quarter, he didn’t do much at all. He had some wild forays to the hoop but there weren’t a lot of positive results. But once the fourth quarter began, Sochan put on his superhero cape. With the Spurs trying to go toe-to-toe against a top team in the West, it was Sochan who was able to go out and get tough buckets. In a 90 second stretch, he scored seven points and did so with the utmost confidence. Defensively, Sochan also improved as the game progressed. When the Spurs needed stops, he was the one who got the toughest assignment. Sochan ended up leading San Antonio to enough stops to get the win.
Jones simply played a heady, solid basketball game. Scoring-wise, he took what the defense gave him — whether it was a crease to the rim or an open three-point shot. Jones’ passing was fantastic, he kept the pace humming and made nearly flawless decisions. Defensively, he competed and kept his energy elevated. Jones clearly has been a really good fit as the team’s starting point guard.
Champagnie didn’t do a whole lot to move the needle in either direction. He efforted on defense but he wasn’t doing a great job of contesting shots or staying in front of players. Offensively, he fired when open and moved without the ball a bit better than usual.
Johnson’s liveliness and electricity off the bench made a notable difference. While he might have pushed the envelope a little bit too much scoring-wise, I thought Johnson was really good in every other aspect. Defensively, he was being physical, rotating with desperation and making important plays on that end. Offensively, Johnson hit a vital three-pointer, was a monster on the offensive boards, kept his mistakes in check and passed the ball reasonably well. This was another game in which he played with enough power to greatly improve San Antonio’s chances of winning.
Yes, there was a notable drop off when Wesley played in place of Jones. However, at this point in their careers, that shouldn’t be a surprise. While he was out there, I was pretty impressed with Wesley. Defensively, he’s getting better and better at utilizing his athleticism to make things happen. Offensively, Wesley could be more aggressive but he’s doing good in terms of taking care of the ball, making the right pass and pushing it enough to make the defense account for him.
With Zach Collins (ankle) missing the game, Barlow stepped in as the team’s backup center. He did good work. Barlow played with confidence on offense and hit a couple big shots. His running hook in the fourth quarter was probably the highlight of his season so far. Defensively, there weren’t many flaws. He defended the interior well and was able to move his feet quick enough to help out on the perimeter.
McDermott drained three three-pointers against the Timberwolves, including two key ones in the fourth quarter. The threat of his shot was creating a lot of space and he was also holding up on defense better than usual. This was the type of game the Spurs had to be imagining when they signed him. McDermott isn’t a world beater but he can clearly be a useful role player if utilized correctly.
Osman made sure that the Spurs kept the volume on full blast when he was in the game. He did damage in transition, made smart decisions passing-wise and played with zero hesitancy. Osman ended up missing all three of his three-pointers but otherwise he provided San Antonio with a noticeable spark.
This was a really good coaching job by Pop. He wasn’t letting mistakes slide — whether the mistake was made by Wembanyama or Wesley. Playcalling-wise, he mixed things up really well and kept the T-Wolves guessing. The rotation made perfect sense. Using Barlow as the backup center and Wesley as the backup point guard both paid dividends. With Wembanyama on a restriction of 30 minutes, Pop juggled it just right to allow him to be in during the most important segments of the game.