A last-minute loss to the Phoenix Suns in Mexico City on Saturday will likely have the San Antonio Spurs in an inhospitable mood when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday at AT&T Center in the Alamo City.
The Spurs (31-9) have only lost back-to-back contests just once this season and are 7-1 in games after a loss, winning those seven games by an average of 19.7 points.
It would be foolish to expect anything but a fiery comeback performance from San Antonio when its battle Minnesota, a team it has beaten eight straight times dating back to a loss in April 2014 in Minneapolis.
It’s hard to fault Kawhi Leonard for the Spurs’ defeat in Mexico City. He scored a career-high 38 points in the 108-105 setback against Phoenix and became a one-man show for a while in the fourth quarter when San Antonio roared back to tie the game in the final minutes.
“I’m never focused on getting a career high — I’m just trying to do what it takes for us to win,” Leonard said after the defeat. “It’s disappointing to leave Mexico with a loss.”
Leonard leads the Spurs in scoring (24.6 points per game) and has scored in double figures in 72 straight games. The San Antonio record is 75, set by retired forward Tim Duncan. He passed out of a triple team to Danny Green, who missed a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds remaining that would have given the Spurs the lead.
The loss to Phoenix was San Antonio’s second defeat in its past three games.
“You don’t want to come down to the end of the game and be forced to make a shot — we should have taken care of business well before that,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “The Suns did a great job of being aggressive for 48 minutes and we exacerbated things with 20 points off our turnovers. We have a lot of work to do.”
Minnesota (14-27) lost to the Mavericks in Dallas 98-87 on Sunday afternoon, breaking a season-long three-game winning streak. Gorgui Dieng scored a team-high 21 points for the Timberwolves while Andrew Wiggins had 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists and Karl-Anthony Towns added 18 points and nine rebounds, ending his streak of 10 consecutive double-doubles.
After averaging 27.3 assists during their three-game win streak, the Timberwolves had only 20 against Dallas.
The Timberwolves made just five of 21 3s in the loss and converted only 12 of their 18 free throws.
“We lacked energy,” Minnesota guard Ricky Rubio said. “We were on a good streak, winning against top teams. We beat this team three games ago. We knew they would come with an edge, and they beat us. The energy just wasn’t there.”
The Timberwolves bench was outscored by Dallas’ reserves 29-10. Minnesota is now 4-15 on the road this season.
“We played a low-energy game,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And that hurt us on both sides of the ball. If you don’t play with energy you’re going to have a problem. We’ve got to move the ball. We’ve got to play with more intensity — that’s a big thing.”
San Antonio beat Minnesota 105-91 on Dec. 6 at the Target Center and owns a five-game home winning streak against the Timberwolves.