Feb 3, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) dribbles against Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell (4) in the first half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
These San Antonio Spurs helped lead a thrilling 4th quarter comeback
After two blowout losses to the Memphis Grizzlies, a Wednesday night showdown with the Minnesota Timberwolves was a must-win for the San Antonio Spurs. Spurs fans were already on edge after what had happened over the weekend and on Monday night, a loss to a 5-15 Wolves team might’ve sent some of us over.
Things didn’t look great for the Spurs early on. Slow starts and early deficits are nothing new to this bunch so a four-point Minnesota lead after the first quarter wasn’t a cause for too much concern. But unlike in other games this season, the Spurs weren’t ever able to close the gap.
It seemed like every time the Spurs got something good going, whether it was a Jakob Poeltl dunk inside or a Dejounte Murray three, the Wolves were right there to answer. When they got to the final quarter the Wolves still held on to an 11 point lead.
But everything changed in the last 12 minutes. All of the momentum shifted to the Spurs’ side as they racked up basket after basket, contested everything, and played their most hounding defense of the entire game.
When all was said and done, the Spurs rode a +14 point fourth quarter, including a 20-2 run, to close out the Timberwolves and get a 111-108 win. Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief that things ended the way they did and take a look at the guys who made it all possible.
Jakob Poeltl shines in an expanded role for San Antonio Spurs
The matchup between Jakob Poeltl and the Minnesota Timberwolves frontcourt was one that we highlighted in our pregame look and Poeltl came through tonight. Against a Karl-Anthony Towns-less Wolves team, Poeltl dominated. He was everywhere for San Antonio, just like we had hoped he would be.
Poeltl would end the game with 19 points, the most he’s had all season and just one point shy of his all-time high with the Spurs. Most of his looks came from right at the rim but Poelt showed off a deft touch that served him well in pick and roll situations.
He looked particularly good in pick and roll situations with Derrick White. The two have built strong chemistry over the past few years and that was evident last night. Working together, White was able to feed Jakob more than a few easy opportunities near the rim off of well-timed pocket passes.
On the defensive end of the floor, Poeltl ended the game with a team-high four blocks. That number, while impressive on its own, doesn’t do full justice to the defensive impact that Jakob had on this game.
He was consistently contesting opponents at the rim, remaining verticle and making their shots harder while still avoiding fouls. Fouls have been an issue for Poeltl in the past but he recorded just one against Minnesota.
With LaMarcus Aldridge set to miss more time rehabilitating his hip were going to be seeing more of Jakob Poeltl in the starting lineup in the coming days. If he comes with the same energy he bought last night the Spurs should be in good shape.
Next: The Spurs backcourt of the future
Feb 3, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) dribbles against the Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) in the first half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Derrick White needs to rejoin Dejounte Murray in the starting lineup
In all of the three games since his return to the team, Derrick White has come off the bench for the San Antonio Spurs. It seems like the team is taking the patient approach, slowly working White back into the mix before he inevitably reassumes his spot in the starting lineup. Last night made it clear that time has come.
It’s no coincidence that the Spurs started to make their run in the fourth when Derrick finally joined Dejounte Murray on the court for extended playing time. The two haven’t gotten to play together much but last night was an excellent look at what’s possible when they do.
They didn’t score much, they left that to their closer, but the two-way impact that White and Murray have on the game was a driving force behind the Spurs comeback.
It showed up in Murray flying in to corral precious defensive rebounds, preventing the Wolves from getting another chance at extending the lead. You could see it when White calmly collapsed the defense and found Jakob for the look that would finally secure the lead for the Spurs.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/02/03/0022000334/598/f65687e8-d6e8-f29e-9d73-fb737477f52c_1280x720.mp4
This is what makes the White-Murray backcourt so dangerous. Even when they’re not scoring they do everything else so well that an off scoring night isn’t too concerning. Especially when they’re getting their teammates as many good looks down the stretch as they did last night.
Next: A round of applause for DeMar DeRozan
Feb 3, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) backs in against Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (1) in the second half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
DeMar DeRozan saved the San Antonio Spurs last night
Everyone, please join me in giving a standing ovation to DeMar DeRozan for his performance last night. The San Antonio Spurs veteran was magnificent in the fourth quarter. He dazzled us with his mastery of the mid-range, schooled Anthony Edwards in what it means to be clutch, and put together a fourth-quarter comeback we’ll be talking about all season long.
DeMar had played okay up until the fourth. He led the Spurs in scoring at the half and was one of the few players on the team who could get his looks to fall. But when it mattered most he flipped the switch and was a totally different beast.
He’d started to mount a comeback midway through the quarter. But down nine with just over six minutes remaining, he drove into the lane and packed in a dunk that would serve as the spark for the Spurs’ eventual victory.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/02/03/0022000334/564/59ac4dc7-cc18-1de6-afaf-8fed0ae4eb7f_1280x720.mp4
As DeRozan would tell reporters after the game, that dunk was his way of letting the Wolves and his teammates know that this game was far from over. “It was just me wanting to be aggressive, as aggressive as possible, going downhill, trying to create, not just for me but for my teammates,” said DeRozan, “just trying to get some type of momentum going. It started in the fourth quarter with me coming out in attack mode.”
He’d end up scoring 16 of his 30 points in the fourth on 5/9 shooting the floor. He also got several Wolves to bite on pump fakes, sending him to the line for another six points. Not satisfied with just scoring, DeMar would also pull down four rebounds and dish out a pair of assists in the final period.
All in all, it was a masterfully done clutch game from the man who has consistently led the Spurs when they needed it most. Games like this add to the argument for why the Spurs should re-sign DeMar this summer and put him firmly in the hunt for an All-Star spot.
It was a good win but the San Antonio Spurs can’t rest on their laurels for long. They’ve got their rival Houston Rockets on Saturday in a game that you know Houston will be up for.