Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Spurs
Wolves (21-39) vs Spurs (49-15) — 7:00 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North Plus
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
View Timberwolves Game Notes
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Minnesota faces off against a Texas franchise for the second straight game when it hosts Western Conference leaders San Antonio tonight. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North Plus and 830 WCCO-AM.
San Antonio Breakdown
San Antonio travels north after defeating Oklahoma City last night, knocking off another top contender in the West. They accomplished this without their best player, veteran guard Tony Parker who sprained his ankle on March 1. Parker averaged 21.0 points and 7.6 assists per game when healthy, and was widely considered to be an MVP candidate.
The Spurs have been 4-1 since his absence, however, proving that they have one of the best team concepts in the league. They’re looking in the paint more, which is where longtime Spur Tim Duncan does most of his work. They’ve also got Manu Ginobili, the third member of San Antonio’s veteran trio who is coming off the bench with 12.6 PPG. Beyond those three, the rest of the Spurs are mostly young, smart players like Kawhi Leonard (11.2 PPG), Danny Green (10.7 PPG) and Tiago Splitter (10.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG). Cory Joseph has started the last three games at point guard.
They’re coming in having just knocked off the Oklahoma City Thunder last night in San Antonio, bouncing back from a 30-point home loss against Portland on Friday to beat the Thunder 105-93. The Spurs did it with their exceptional ball movement and depth, compiling 25 assists on 43 field goals on the offensive end. They’re tops in the NBA in assists per game at 25.0 per night. Defensively, they held Russell Westbrook to 11-of-27 shooting and forced 17 Thunder turnovers. As we head into the final five weeks of the season, that was a statement win for the Spurs over the No. 2 seed in the West.
Last Time Out: Feb. 6, 2013
Danny Green was absolutely blazing from outside, hitting 8-of-12 3-pointers and putting up a 28 total points leading the Spurs to a 104-94 victory on Feb. 6.
“He made all the shots that they needed,” Derrick Williams said. “Every time we brought it to within two or three, he was right there to knock down a big shot. That’s a championship-type team, nothing fazes them.”
Green, who reached a new career-high, flourished in the fourth quarter. He hit 4-of-5 perimeter shots and totaled 14 points in the final frame.
“Danny hit some tough shots,” center Greg Stiemsma added. “This is a confident team right now; they execute, they hit shots, they play together.”
The Wolves stuck with the top-ranked team in the West for nearly the entire game, however. There were 21 lead changes, and San Antonio only truly pulled away around the final two minutes.
Pekovic led the Wolves tonight, scoring 21 points—including 11 from the free throw line—and grabbing 10 rebounds. Williams had a double-double as well with 15 points and 12 boards, and J.J. Barea also posted 15 points. Ricky Rubio had nine points and 11 assists.
Veteran Tony Parker scored 31 for San Antonio and dished out eight assists. Kawhi Leonard pitched in 19 points and led the Spurs’ rebounding with 10 boards.
Key Matchup: Tim Duncan and Derrick Williams
There may be 14 seasons separating the two, but Duncan and Williams will face each other a fair amount tonight and each will play to their strengths.
Duncan is a savvy veteran who is crafty and hits shots off the glass. At nearly 37 years old, he’s still outworking young players, as he put 18 points on both Portland and Chicago last week. With the top scoring threat injured in Parker, the Spurs will spread the shots out more evenly, but a good deal of looks will go inside to Duncan.
Williams is averaging 19.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game this month, making March his best stretch of his career. He has started at power forward 24 straight times for Minnesota, and was trying some very aggressive dunks in his last contest on Sunday. Is March 2013 when Williams breaks out and shows the kind of production he had collegiately? The Wolves need a win, and Williams will do everything he can against a future Hall-of-Famer.
Injury report presented by TSR Injury Law
The Wolves hope to have both center Nikola Pekovic (abdominal strain) and forward Andrei Kirilenko (left calf strain) back tonight, but both are listed as doubtful heading into tonight’s game. They didn’t play at all last week with their respective injuries, relegating the Wolves to nine healthy players and missing four of their five projected starters at the beginning of the year (including Kevin Love and Brandon Roy).
The Spurs continue to play without Tony Parker, who has missed the last four games with a sprained ankle. Reports this week suggest Parker may return faster than his initial four-week timetable, but the is still likely out until late March.
|Tonight's Probable Starters|
|PG||Ricky Rubio||Cory Joseph|
|SG||Luke Ridnour||Danny Green|
|SF||Mickael Gelabale||Kawhi Leonard|
|PF||Derrick Williams||Tim Duncan|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||Tiago Splitter|