Spurs: What to focus on against the Minnesota Timberwolves

Bryn Forbes of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
Bryn Forbes of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Bryn Forbes of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
Bryn Forbes of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

On the heels of a disappointing loss on Monday night, the San Antonio Spurs will try to avoid losing three in a row as they travel to Minnesota.

Monday night was a mixed bag of emotions for San Antonio Spurs fans. The Spurs performance against a scrappy Memphis Grizzlies team was frustrating. San Antonio’s eventual loss was made even more frustrating by the Last Two Minutes report that let us know that DeMar DeRozan was fouled on his potential game-tying shot.

Of course, the bitterness that comes with a tough, and debatably undeserved, loss was eased by the raising of Tony Parker‘s jersey into the rafters of the AT&T Center. The four-time NBA Champion Parker is the last of the legendary Big Three to have his jersey retired. It’s an honor he more than deserves.

Now it’s time for the Spurs to put ceremony and reminiscence in the rearview as they travel north on I-35 to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota is just one spot ahead of San Antonio in the Western Conference standings. But while the Spurs have struggled to find their groove early on, the Wolves have been one of the pleasant surprises of the season.

There was little doubt that freeing this group from the archaic system that Tom Thibodeau used would be to their benefit. But did could anyone have expected that Karl-Anthony Towns would be twelfth in the league in three-point attempts? Or that Andrew Wiggins would have suddenly developed an affinity for analytically sound shot selection?

Expected or not, the Timberwolves are going to be another difficult outing for San Antonio. The Spurs play six of their next seven games away from the comforts of the AT&T Center, it would be nice to avoid starting that tough stretch with a three-game losing streak. Here’s a deeper look at what San Antonio needs to key on in order to get the win in Minnesota.

Next: Defensive Focus

Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Defensive Focus: Containing Karl-Anthony Towns

No real surprise here, the defensive focus for this matchup needs to be on slowing down Karl-Anthony Towns. Easier said than done. The word “unicorn” gets thrown around a lot in NBA discussions these days but Towns is one of the few players who’s well deserving of the title.

Finally freed from the shackles of Thib’s philosophies, KAT has been a monster this year. He grew up playing point guard and has always been one of the more versatile big men in the league but what we’ve seen out of him this year is borderline unheard of.

Last year he was taking 58.6 percent of his shots within ten feet of the rim and only 27 percent behind the arc. This season he’s flipped the script and is now shooting half of his field-goal attempts from deep. He’s making them too, connecting on an impressive 41.7 percent of his three-point attempts. Spot up, off the dribble, step backs, he shots, and makes, all of them.

.@KarlTowns is completely UNGUARDABLE ? pic.twitter.com/g17oxoYvtp

— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 28, 2019

Short of recruiting Ben Simmons to come put him in a chokehold again I don’t know how you stop that.

The task of guarding Towns will likely fall upon Spurs newcomer and fellow Kentucky alum, Trey Lyles. He’s the only Spurs big man with the combination of size and speed to stay close to KAT for 30+ minutes. With all due respect to LaMarcus Aldridge, he doesn’t have the necessary footspeed to stay with Towns on the perimeter and a KAT rampaging down the lane is not something the Spurs want.

San Antonio shouldn’t be afraid to double Towns early and often. Front him in the post to deny entry passes and have back up ready to come over and help if he does get the ball. He’s a good passer, averaging a career-high 4.3 assists per game this season, but forcing the ball out of his hands whenever possible is what San Antonio needs to focus on in this matchup.

Next: Offensive Focus

Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)

Offensive Focus: Get the guards going early

Minnesota has been one of the better offensive teams in the league but they’ve struggled to contain opponents on the other end of the floor. KAT has held down the paint well but they can be exploited on the perimeter.

Coming out of college one of the promising parts of Andrew Wiggins’s game was his defensive potential. Now in his fifth season in the league, Wiggins has still yet to become the defensive stopper that Wolves fans would have hoped. He, along with fellow guard Treveon Graham, should be attacked early and often.

Dejounte Murray should be in for a good game, especially if he’s able to set up shooters like Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, and Marco Belinelli. DeMar DeRozan needs to come out of the gates aggressive and attacking the basket. This will draw the defense in and create more open looks for the Spurs shooters as the game goes on.

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It’s no secret that San Antonio has struggled to make three-pointers this year. They’re dead last in three-point accuracy and 27th in the league in three-point shots attempted. Luckily the Wolves present the perfect opportunity to turn things around.

Minnesota is one of the worst teams in the league in defending the long ball. They regularly get burned from deep. So far they’ve allowed opponents to connect on a league-worst 39.6 percent of their above the break three’s. They’re not much better at guarding the most valuable shot in the league, the corner three, either. Opposing teams are hitting an astounding 51.2 percent of their left corner three’s against the Wolves.

The Spurs love the mid-range and don’t attempt many threes. Together that means they have little room for error if they’re having an off night. If they’re going to continue to shoot very few long balls they need to make their looks count. This game against Minnesota would the perfect time to dial in the accuracy and get back to the form they showed last year.

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San Antonio has a difficult slate of road games coming up. Their only home game over the next seven is against the Portland Trail Blazers as well. Getting a win tonight against the Timberwolves would be a great way for the Spurs back on track as they begin this tough stretch of games.

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