The San Antonio Spurs extended their winning streak to three games with a 125-122 overtime victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night. A close affair throughout, the good guys were able to nail a few key jumpers in the overtime period to clinch the road win.
The Spurs trailed by three points with less than two minutes remaining in regulation after D’Angelo Russell connected on a jumper. That’s when DeMar DeRozan took over. In the final 90 seconds of the fourth, he put the team on his back and scored all nine of the team’s points to close out the quarter. In overtime, the Timberwolves started collapsing on DeRozan, which allowed the Spurs to get enough open looks to ice the game.
The Spurs haven’t gotten to the line much this season. In fact, they entered the game shooting the second fewest free throws per possession in the league. Tonight, they were 24-for-29 at the line. That proved to be very important, especially because the T’Wolves were only 11-for-17 at the free throw stripe.
Spurs at Timberwolves: Final Grades
In the first quarter, it didn’t look like DeRozan was destined for a big performance. He was passive out of the gates and ended the first period with zero points. From that point forward, though, it was on. DeRozan finished with 38 points and hit 12-of-13 attempts from the line. His mix of physicality and smarts powered the Spurs through multiple rough patches. When the Spurs desperately needed a basket, DeRozan was able to deliver again and again. Add in a few very good passes, the fact he only turned it over once and a couple positive plays on defense and the result was a very strong outing for the 31-year-old.
This was a game of highs and lows for Johnson. In the first quarter, he was really good. He finished with 10 points in the opening period and his point total was up to 14 by halftime. In the second half, Johnson didn’t do much on the offensive end outside of a few key hustle plays. Truth be told, there were a handful of moments where he could have tried to impose his will but failed to do so. Then again, his passing and awareness remained positives even when his scoring evaporated. Defensively, Johnson was really good on the ball but he struggled off the ball. He got caught ball-watching multiple times and eventually Minnesota drew plays to take advantage of that fact. But, again, Johnson was able to retain value by pulling down contested rebounds and throwing his body around in the paint. All in all, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity for the second-year player to learn and figure out what it takes to win contested ballgames.
More good stuff out of Murray this evening. He pulled down 14 rebounds — many of which were boards he fought for among the trees. While he was only 4-for-12 on two-pointers, he hit enough threes (3-for-6) and free throws (5-for-6) to salvage his efficiency. He also authored a few heady passes and took good-enough care of the ball. Defensively, I thought he was rock solid. Murray picked up the ball early, kept his gambling to a minimum and was stout when switched off onto bigger opponents.
While Aldridge’s statistical production wasn’t too impressive, I was impressed by his effort level. He was physical on both ends of the court and ran the court hard. He struggled to defend out on the perimeter but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Offensively, while he could have been a more willing passer, his shot-selection was good and he was consistently drawing a lot of attention. When the going got tough, Aldridge’s spine stiffened — and that definitely helped.
Lonnie Walker IV
The good: Walker was aggressive on offense, which is a key for him on a night-to-night basis. His shots weren’t going down but there was nothing wrong with his looks. Defensively, he was pretty good man-to-man and I like that he didn’t die when met with a screen. Instead, he kept fighting to get back into the play — and was rewarded with a couple of steals. The bad: His passing, particularly on the fast break, left a lot to be desired. Being stronger and more stubborn in the paint would have helped him finish off a couple more potential buckets. Defensively, his attentiveness waned at times.
FIBA Patty was, as we’ve come to expect this season, raining down momentous jumpers for the Spurs. He nailed five more three-pointers and, once again, his threes were seemingly all very timely. Mills played better as the game went along and his baskets in the fourth quarter and in overtime proved vital. Defensively, he was efforting each possession, even if the results weren’t always positive.
It was a roller coaster of a night for Gay. Things started off swimmingly, as he began the game 4-for-4 from the court. He was taking his time and outfoxing the Wolves. Sadly, his wily ways didn’t last, as Gay missed on all five of his final shots from the floor. Uncharacteristically, he appeared to allow his misses to negatively impact what he did on the defensive end. After his torrid start, Gay was a liability by the end of his final stint.
The good: Poeltl did good work on the glass. He also hit a free throw. The bad: To say he was soft in the paint would be an understatement of epic proportions. When he caught the ball in the lane, he either flipped up the softest possible shot or panic-passed it to a teammate. I don’t know if he’s worried about being fouled or if he’s dealing with some sort of injury but Poeltl’s timidness in the lane is quickly becoming a problem. His defense is helping him retain some value but the softness is rearing its ugly head on that end of the court too.
Offensively, Vassell had a few good passes and I liked how unafraid he is with the ball. He didn’t score but it wasn’t because he was bashful. Defensively, he was good. From quick switches to heady rotations to tracking down loose balls, the rookie’s presence was felt on the court even though his numbers don’t tell much of a story.
Mostly good strategizing from Pop. I liked how he allowed Johnson and Murray room (and playing time) to grow. It seemed like he might have leaned on his starters a bit much but the overtime period proved that to be a needless worry. The Spurs really struggled to score against Minnesota’s zone defense for long stretches of the game, which Pop should shoulder some blame for. But in the overtime, the Spurs finally figured out what they needed to do to attack the zone. Better late than never.
The Spurs play the Timberwolves again a Sunday night. A road sweep of this Western Conference foe would be a pleasant way to extend San Antonio’s momentum.