For the San Antonio Spurs to avoid a first-round playoff series
with the defending champions, they’ll probably need to win their
final two games and get some help.
Before looking ahead to possible playoff scenarios, though, the
Spurs first need to get past the Minnesota Timberwolves – something
that hasn’t been a problem for them lately.
In its regular season finale Monday night at the AT&T
Center, San Antonio seeks its 12th straight victory over the woeful
After winning the Southwest Division four of the past five
seasons, the Spurs (49-31) look like they could be the Western
Conference’s eighth seed for this season’s playoffs. San Antonio
and Portland have identical records, but the Trail Blazers swept
the season series and hold the tiebreaker.
San Antonio can still pass Portland, as it wraps up the season
Wednesday at Southwest Division-winning Dallas, while the Blazers
host sixth-place Oklahoma on Monday and lowly Golden State on
The team that finishes eighth will have a first-round series
with the top-seeded Lakers. Asked on a scale of 1 to 10 how bad the
Spurs wanted to face the Lakers in the opening round, coach Gregg
Popovich simply answered, “Minus-5.”
Popovich would probably rather face the Timberwolves (15-65),
the West’s worst team.
The Spurs have won 11 straight over Minnesota and 16 of 17 in
the series. They’ve also won the last 11 in San Antonio since a
100-93 loss on Jan. 14.
Neither meeting this season was close, as the Spurs won 117-99
at home on Dec. 29 and 103-85 in Minnesota on March 12. Richard
Jefferson led San Antonio with 24 points in the December meeting
and finished with 19 points and nine rebounds against the
Timberwolves last month.
The Spurs are coming off an impressive 104-85 win at Denver on
Saturday, handing the Nuggets just their fourth home loss in 24
Tim Duncan had 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Jefferson and
Manu Ginobili added 15 apiece, as San Antonio won for the fifth
time in seven games.
Duncan said after the game he isn’t too concerned about who the
Spurs face in the playoffs.
“We’ll play who we play. We’ll prepare for it the same way,”
the 12-time All-Star said. “We’ve got to refocus.”
San Antonio knows it won’t face Minnesota, a team that has
essentially been out of the postseason picture since starting the
The season is ending even worse for the Timberwolves, who have
just one victory in their last 22 games.
Minnesota, which is coming off Sunday’s 114-86 loss at New
Orleans, needs one win in its final two games to avoid matching the
worst record in franchise history, set in 1991-92. The Wolves, who
are 2-23 on the road since Dec. 29, conclude the regular season
Wednesday against Detroit.
Sunday’s loss was especially discouraging for Minnesota, which
shot 39.4 percent, was outrebounded 49-30 and outscored 70-32 in
“I don’t think we were purposeful out there,” said coach Kurt
Rambis, who was ejected for arguing a call early in the second
quarter. “I don’t think that we were very attentive to what we
wanted to do offensively. … Defensive-wise, we weren’t focused on
what we had to do in order to get stops.”
Al Jefferson returned to Minnesota’s lineup Sunday after missing
two games while attending to a hospitalized family member, but had
only five points on 1 of 6 shooting and three rebounds in 30