The Timberwolves hung tight with the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night, even leading at halftime, before collapsing in the second half and losing by 14-point margin.
After coming back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter in Charlotte on Saturday night, the Timberwolves had 72 hours to prepare for Tuesday night’s NBA TV showdown with the mighty San Antonio Spurs. But it wasn’t enough.
The Wolves jumped out to a 10-1 lead in the first quarter, prompting the Spurs Gregg Popovich to swap out five reserves for his five starters. (Point guard Tony Parker sat out the game with a knee contusion, and normal sixth-man Manu Ginobili did not play off the bench.)
The Spurs stemmed the tide and took a brief lead before the Wolves’ bench had a strong stretch, led by rookie Kris Dunn‘s third-straight solid showing, and Minnesota maintained a three-point lead at halftime.
But the third quarter woes continued, as the visiting Spurs outscored the Wolves by a 29-18 margin. After a solid first quarter, Karl-Anthony Towns didn’t score another point in the game until it was all but decided late in the fourth quarter, and Andrew Wiggins didn’t fare much better.
The bench was okay early in the fourth quarter as the Wolves started the frame down by eight points, but Kawhi Leonard (and basically Kawhi Leonard alone) was eventually too much for Minnesota.
It was, once again, an impressive first half performance with a few silver linings: Dunn’s play, Shabazz Muhammad‘s renewed aggressiveness, and Zach LaVine‘s shooting. But, once again, the second half was a massive struggle and the two players who are supposed to be the Wolves best in Towns and Wiggins combined to shoot just 8-for-28 (28.6 percent) on the night.
Kawhi Leonard: 31 points (11-15 FG, 2-3 3P, 7-8 FT), 4 assists, 2 steals, one rebound, one turnover
Due to the early struggles by the Spurs, Popovich had Leonard play 36 minutes in what turned out to be somewhat of a blowout late in the fourth quarter.
Leonard was surgical, not scoring at all early but dominating in the middle stages of the game when the Spurs hung close and eventually overcame the Wolves in the second half. The Timberwolves failed to consistently contest Leonard’s mid-range shots, and Kawhi simply said ‘thank you’ and continued pouring in the points.
The Wolves will head north of the border to take on the 14-7 Toronto Raptors, who currently sit second in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors last played on Sunday and lost on the road to Cleveland. The game will be televised on TNT at 6:00 p.m. CT.