Timberwolves coach Chris Finch has said it before and repeated it after his team lost to the Spurs 107-98 in San Antonio on Sunday night:
Wolves’ attack, with Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns figuring out how to play together, will be a work in progress.
Little progress was made on Sunday against a surprising Spurs side who improved to 5-2 with their second win over Wolves in seven days.
Afterwards, Finch said there was too much reliance on the pick-and-roll, not enough cutting and moving without the ball.
“We’re talking about cutting more, being more active off the ball,” Finch said. “We have to learn to do what the game requires rather than what we want to do individually.”
Spurs, days after relinquishing 2021 first-round pick Josh Primo, entered the game missing key rotation players Devin Vassell (knee), Josh Richardson (back) and Jeremy Sochan (flu-like symptoms ). In the first half, Blake Wesley left with an injury.
But it was Spurs who played as a connected unit, with Doug McDermott’s season-high 23 points – he was 7 for 14 from three – leading a Spurs bench that outscored Wolves’ reserves 43-28 . It was San Antonio who moved the ball, getting 27 assists from 36 baskets made.
A 16-2 run from the end of the second quarter into the third put Spurs up 19. They still led by 15 entering the fourth.
And then a small formation of Wolves started to turn things around. Held scoreless in the first half, Anthony Edwards amassed 18 points in the second, including 11 in the fourth. Playing mostly with reserves, including Naz Reid, Wolves opened the fourth 14-2 – with Edwards and Reid each scoring seven – to move closer to three.
It was still a six-point game when Finch decided to put Towns and Gobert back in the game with 6:24 to go. Wolves’ attack quickly went flat again, managing just eight points the rest of the way.
“Maybe we should have left this unit a little longer,” he said. “We want to get back to Rudy and KAT, but we have a unit clicking there. I felt that unit spent a lot of energy. We were going to do some subs there. But we could have done it. If I had to do it over again, I would have knocked these guys down a bit.
Towns finished with 26 points and 11 boards, but 15 of those points came in the first quarter. He, Edwards and D’Angelo Russell (10) were the only Wolves players in double figures.
Keldon Johnson scored 25 for Spurs and Keita Bates-Diop scored 18.
“They’re shooting three balls well, they’re shooting free throws well, they’re finishing the basket well,” Towns said. “That’s the recipe for success. We have to do a better job. Everybody in this dressing room. We didn’t compete enough. We didn’t beat them. We had chances, but we never got them. seizures. We just don’t have them doing enough.”
Wolves (4-3) forced 20 turnovers but converted them to just 12 points. They had 16 offensive rebounds, but only 18 second-chance points. Their 98 points marked the first time Wolves (4-3) had been held below 100 points this season. San Antonio hit 16 of 40 three-pointers (40%) while Wolves were 4 for 29.
Finch said the team didn’t bring enough physical intensity to the defense. On Sunday, he said Wolves had helped too much, leaving McDermott, who was always open.
“We’ll take a look at the tape,” Towns said. “We just have to take this game in stride and find ways to improve.”
The Star Tribune did not send the author of this article to the game. It was written using a broadcast, interviews and other documents.
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