The San Antonio Spurs fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves 102-94 to extend their current losing streak to 15 games. It was a hard-fought battle between two clubs that should leave fans satisfied with the effort put forth by the youngest team in the NBA. The Timberwolves have already gone through their growing pains and are now leading the charge in the Western Conference with a 16-4 record. As painful as it is to acknowledge, beating them in the team's current state was highly unlikely.
But fear not, Spurs faithful; though the Silver and Black may have lost another game, this is no time to hang your heads. There has been a shift in the starting lineup. It was not what critics have been calling for, but it was a move that led to an improvement that was easier to spot than Boban Marjanovic in a Keebler factory. Many fans foresaw the rise of Cedi Osman minutes, but few had the vision of Osman as a starter.
The Osman effect was positive for the San Antonio Spurs in a number of ways
Osman is an intelligent player with a multi-faceted skillset. He possesses great size at 6'8, and his experience playing professional basketball for Turkey before being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers helps to establish him as a heady veteran at the beginning of his prime. Coach Popovich's decision to pull the Osman lever allowed the Macedonian swingman to showcase his ability to impact the game across the stat sheet, and he did just that.
Osman finished the game with six points, six assists, eight rebounds, and a -10 plus/minus score as San Antonio's ball club lost the fourth quarter 31-23 after entering the final period with a tie. Many international players are drilled on the fundamentals early as they learn the game of basketball. As a result, the NBA has seen a myriad of elite passers arrive in the league from many countries. The former Cavalier's passing gifts are a welcome contribution to a lineup that can struggle to get the ball to their 7'4 big man.
Cedi was not the only change to the starting five. Devin Vassell assumed point guard duties while Jeremy Sochan came off the bench. Unfortunately, if fans are hoping for more insight into the decision to switch out starters, you may want to formulate whatever answer makes you feel best, as Coach Pop did not feel inclined to share his thoughts on the subject.
The Spurs played improved defense and moved the ball well in their contest with the Timberwolves. Osman's presence was a clear upgrade for the spacing on the floor, and his decisiveness once the ball is in his hands serves a positive flow to the offense. He may not be prime Tony Allen as a defender, but he is often in the right place or close to it. Hopefully, the Spurs will continue to lean on Osman as the season progresses. He will be a valuable piece to this season's evaluation.