The San Antonio Spurs will take on the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight in Minnesota as San Antonio looks to get one step closer to clinching the top overall seed in the NBA.
San Antonio’s magic number was reduced to two after the Phoenix Suns defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 122-115 on Sunday night. However, it won’t be easy against a Timberwolves team that has one of the best big men in the NBA, Kevin Love, and features flashy passer Ricky Rubio. This team has proven that despite them not making the playoffs they still can grind out wins, as they showed with wins over the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat.
To discuss tonight’s matchup, I sat down with Timothy Snyder from Timberwolves Blog. To get up to the date information on the Minnesota Timberwolves, check out the blog today.
In the Q&A we discussed how Nikola Pekovic’s injury will hurt the Wolves, his take on J.J. Barea, and of course the prediction for the game.
Stephen: The front court of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic has given the Spurs trouble in the past. With Pekovic out tonight, how will Minnesota keep San Antonio off the boards and control the glass?
Timothy: The Wolves can almost always count on 12-14 boards from Kevin Love. The real question is who is going to pick up the slack with Nikola Pekovic sidelined with his ankle injury. Reigning Rookie of the Month Gorgui Dieng averaged 8.3 boards per game in March, even eclipsing 20 boards in a loss to Houston where he also scored 22. On the whole though, you have to give the advantage to the Spurs; the Wolves will be hoping to tread water and not get killed on the boards.
Spurs fans know J.J. Barea from his time with the Dallas Mavericks, but how has his presence been felt in Minnesota?
JJ Barea has taught Wolves fan and players a lot in his time with the franchise. The main virtue he imparts is patience, because for everyone 1 good/great JJ game, you get 5-7 miserable clunkers. You learn to wait as a fan, suffer through those garbage performances and scratch your head when he blows up for 15-25 points.
JJ is one of the most despised players I have seen in my time as a Wolves fan. He has clashed with Kevin Love and unsettled the team with his antics. One of our bloggers has given him the inglorious designation of “Most Hated Timberwolf Ever”. With that being said, I can only imagine what the Wolves players must think of him.
The Timberwolves have played well in the last week getting wins against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies, who are fighting for their playoff lives. What has Minnesota done right in these games to pull out two surprising wins?
There are a couple things that I think bear mentioning. Against Memphis you had a team rounding out a 5 game road stand. They had heavy legs and shot dreadfully. However, the Wolves showed up and they were ready to play. Bringing the energy and focus to take the game to the opponent was the big factor here. The NBA season is a campaign with many small battles/victories/losses along the way, it isn’t always easy to get up for an early April game with the Twolves in Minneapolis.
The Heat were without Dwyane Wade, so certainly that helps. Overall though, they just hit some timely shots and got some timely misses. The insertion of Dieng is influential because of his shot blocking abilities (3 blocks in 25 minutes), and that always gives Miami some issues. Chase Budinger had maybe his biggest game in a Wolves uniform going 5-7 from 3pt land and finishing with 24 points. Generally speaking, if someone other than Kevin Love (and Kevin Martin when healthy) is hitting outside shots, they give a lot of teams issues.
Kevin Martin is out with a foot injury, who other than Love needs to do well on the offensive end to give the Timberwolves a chance to win the game?
Looking back to the Heat game, the Wolves had 6 players in double figures. I nearly fell out of my seat when I saw that; such a shock. Getting balanced scoring and hitting shots from 3pt land will be the key ingredients to the Wolves staying competitive.
The Spurs are going for the season sweep of the Timberwolves tonight. What does Minnesota need to do if they want to upset the league-best Spurs?
Take away the catch and shoot 3 pt opportunities. When the Spurs seem to really have it going, they are zinging the ball around and someone ends up with an open 3pt off the catch and shoot. OKC does a great job of chasing those guys off the 3 pt line with their athleticism. The Wolves do not have that same kind of athleticism so it will be difficult, but that’s the model. Winning the rebounding battle would be nice as well.
Prediction for the game?
Spurs win it straight away, take the lead early and never look back.
Final score 112-98.