The three-game winning streak for the San Antonio Spurs (5-5) was snapped on Sunday night. A day after defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Wolves were able to get revenge. The Spurs seemingly ran out of gas in the fourth quarter and lost by a final count of 96-88.
In addition to this being a back-to-back affair, San Antonio was without DeMar DeRozan, who was in California to be with his ill father. Last game, DeRozan led the way with 38 points, which included numerous key buckets. Without him, the offense never found any semblance of a rhythm. This was only the second game all season in which the Spurs failed to score at least 103 points.
The Spurs appeared to have control of the game in the fourth quarter when Dejounte Murray scored to give his team a nine-point cushion, 77-68, with 9:48 remaining. But that’s when San Antonio’s offense collapsed. Minnesota scored the game’s next 11 points and never trailed again.
The Spurs shot poorly from all distances: 43.8% on two-pointers, 26.7% on three-pointers and 57.1% at the line.
Spurs at Timberwolves: Final Grades
With DeRozan out, Aldridge tried to turn back the clock and carry the load like it was the 2017-18 season all over again. He posted up this game more than he had all season combined. Despite his commendable effort, Aldridge just wasn’t able to shoulder the load. He didn’t finish well enough in the lane and only got to the free throw line once, which limited his impact on the low block. He did pass the ball well, though, and remained physical throughout. Defensively, while he was good in the interior, he was a liability out on the perimeter.
Murray just wasn’t as sharp as he has been in recent games. Defensively, he gave up backdoor drives too often. Offensively, he wasn’t picking his spots well. Instead, he was routinely breaking the offense. By the fourth quarter, he couldn’t buy a basket, as he finished the period 1-for-6 from the floor.
Coming into this game, Lyles had played 30 minutes all season. But with DeRozan away, Lyles got the start and was on the court for 35 minutes. Honestly, he didn’t play that poorly. But he also didn’t play that well. He was good on the boards, his decision-making was okay and his defense (especially outside of the paint) was relatively solid. That said, Lyles’ inability to threaten Minnesota’s defense wasn’t helping matters. He can’t be as passive as he was tonight on offense and still be an asset.
This night was a struggle for Johnson. Offensively, he never got anything going. When he wasn’t fumbling the ball, he wasn’t making smart decisions when trying to finish at the rim. While his rebounding was helpful, his defense was sub par on the whole. He tried to raise his intensity on that end but the result was a few sloppy fouls that allowed the Timberwolves to tally easy points.
Lonnie Walker IV
Mark this down as a breakout game for Walker. He had 22 first half points and looked really, really good at times. He courageously attacked the basket and his touch in the paint was deft. As his confidence grew, he started launching jumpers and creating shots for teammates. As impressive as his 22 first half points were, he actually could have had more. There were more driving lanes and finishing opportunities open for the taking. He got nicked up to end the first half and then left the game for good in the fourth due to what appeared to be a leg cramp. All in all, this game gave a glimpse of Walker’s offensive ceiling. He’s such a good athlete that if he figures it all out, his scoring potential is off the charts.
It was an up and down game for FIBA Patty. In the first quarter, he was really bad. He couldn’t hit a shot, couldn’t create off the dribble and his clock management was poor. Mills eventually rediscovered his rhythm and almost single-handedly brought the Spurs back in the fourth quarter — but he didn’t quite have enough.
Gay looked extra slow on both ends tonight. Offensively, he was tripping over himself and making mistakes right and left. Defensively, he was able to make plays here and there, but his slowness didn’t allow him to have much of an impact.
Poeltl started slowly last season before finding a rhythm. Let’s hope that happens again this season because he’s just not playing well. It looks like he’s lacking confidence and it’s impacting all phases of his game. He had a couple good defensive possessions against the Timberwolves but that was about the extent of his positives on this night.
The rookie took a pair of ill-advised two-pointers in his ten minutes of action. Vassell’s defense was good but he needs to find a way to help out on offense if he’s going to stay in the rotation throughout this season. He ended up leaving this game after banging knees.
It’s difficult to coach a team to victory in 2021 when they shoot as poorly as the Spurs did tonight. That said, Pop should have shown more imagination than he did in this game. Calling post-ups for Aldridge isn’t going to be enough. Additionally, Lyles playing 35 minutes didn’t make much sense with the offense struggling as much as it was. Pop should have tried something else. Anything else. Then again, in Pop’s defense, his options were limited with DeRozan out and then losing Walker and Vassell during the game.
The Spurs play their final game of their five-game road trip on Tuesday against Oklahoma City Thunder. If the Spurs can win that contest, they’d have to be very happy about going 4-1 on the trip.