Three thoughts from the Spurs’ road loss in Minnesota

Defensive issues plague the Spurs in their third straight loss

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Photo: AP Sports

The San Antonio Spurs suffered a 129-114 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves (7-4) at the Target Center on Wednesday night, falling for the fifth time in the last six games.

The loss is the third straight for San Antonio, who began a stretch of six of their next seven games on the road with Wednesday’s game.

“I think we’re very challenged defensively,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “Another poor outing defensively and that’s where we’re at. There’s not much more to say.”

DeMar DeRozan led the Spurs with 27 points on 66 percent shooting from the floor to go along with five rebounds and four assists. LaMarcus Aldridge rebounded from a poor outing the last two games and finished with 23 points 10-for-16 shooting.

Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns combined for 58 points in the win, Wiggins led the team with a game-high 30 points.

In case you missed it, here are three thoughts from the game:

Defensive holes still exist

It will be a surprise to no one that defense was the obvious issue in the Spurs’ loss on Wednesday. The team gave up 58 points in the paint, just two points shy of their season-high of 60 to the Boston Celtics. To put it mildly, San Antonio looks disinterested and lost. At one point, all five players stood and watched as Jeff Teague hit a wide-open three-pointer, putting Minnesota up seven in the second quarter.

The good performances from DeRozan and Aldridge were wasted with another mediocre display defensively. San Antonio ranks 22nd in efficiency. During this three-game losing streak, the Spurs are giving up 125.6 points per game.

So despite who on the court and who isn’t, the main factor behind the Spurs’ recent struggles is their lack of defense. That will need to be taken care of and quick with Portland, Dallas, and Philadelphia coming up on the schedule within the next week.

Cold from three

In the new modern NBA, everyone is taking shots from beyond the arc. The Spurs have struggled from three so far in the 2019-20 season and that was the case again on Wednesday night. San Antonio hit a season-low three 3-pointers, shooting 3-for-17 (17 percent) compared to 11-for-34 for the Timberwolves.

San Antonio doesn’t have enough talent on the perimeter to compete with teams in a contest of three’s, so that’s where their defense will need to be stepping it up, making up for a lack of shooting. Only Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills converted from downtown on Wednesday, which meant Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marco Belinelli, and Trey Lyles were a combined 0-for-6.

So between the lack of defensive and inconsistency from three, those are two of the bigger concerns for this club moving forward as teams gel and more games get played.

The second unit is MIA

San Antonio’s bench got things done last season when the starters didn’t begin the game on the right foot. However, it looks as if the second unit is having trouble finding their footing to begin the 2019-20 season.

The Spurs’ bench had 35 points in Wednesday’s loss compared to 47 for Minnesota. Rudy Gay and Patty Mills each combined for 20 points but they were the only two in double figures from the second unit. Derrick White struggled on both ends, scoring five points on 2-for-7 shooting and defensively, had trouble containing Jeff Teague, who had 18 points.

San Antonio’s roster is filled with undersized guards like Mills and Forbes, while Belinelli struggles to keep his man in front of him. So the second unit need to start gelling sooner rather than later if the Spurs want to remain competitive in a packed Western Conference.

Final Thoughts

The schedule is going to get tougher for the Spurs over the next week and with their struggles on both ends of the court. While yes, it is still very early, they may find themselves in a hole they won’t be able to dig out of at the end of the season. You don’t want to look back and think “what if” if a playoff spot comes down to a single win or loss.

UP NEXT:

The Spurs are now 5-6 on the season and will return to the court on Friday when they travel to face the Orlando Magic (4-7) at 6 p.m. from the Amway Center.

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