Minnesota Timberwolves vs. San Antonio Spurs: Odds, injuries, what to watch for

The Minnesota Timberwolves take on the San Antonio Spurs for the second time in 24 hours as they look to pull out of a seven-game tailspin.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are 2-7 and have lost seven consecutive games. But the mood surrounding the team entering Sunday night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs should be significantly lighter than it was even days ago.

Karl-Anthony Towns returned to action on Saturday against these same Spurs, and outside of a clear adjustment period to the brace he’s wearing on his left wrist, Towns looked like the same old, All-Star-caliber KAT.

Towns had 25 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in 37 minutes on Saturday. He shot the ball efficiently, made the right passes, and improved the Wolves’ defense immensely.

Assuming he plays in the second night of a back-to-back on Sunday, the Wolves will have a real chance to snap their seven-game losing streak against the 5-4 Spurs, who Minnesota took to overtime on Saturday.

While the schedule lightens up considerably for the Wolves for the remainder of January, the Wolves need to get out of this ongoing rut as soon as they can, and splitting the season series to date with the Spurs would be a great way to start.

Minnesota Timberwolves odds vs. San Antonio Spurs

The Action Network has the Timberwolves listed as one-point favorites. Given the competitiveness of last night’s game and the fact that DeMar DeRozan is expected to miss the game due to personal reasons, this seems about right, if not a bit low.

TV and streaming info for Minnesota Timberwolves vs. San Antonio Spurs

What to watch for in Minnesota Timberwolves vs. San Antonio Spurs

Overall, the Wolves played much better halfcourt defense in Saturday night’s game than we’ve seen in recent games. Transition defense and the occasional blowby on the perimeter continue to be issues, but the pick-and-roll coverage was much improved with Towns on the floor.

Without DeRozan, the Spurs are missing their best individual shot creator and the most all-around dynamic offensive player. Look for second-year guard Keldon Johnson, who had 17 points and nine rebounds on Saturday, to play an even bigger role on Sunday.

Additionally, the Wolves struggled to slow down Dejounte Murray, who had 22 points and 14 rebounds and blew by both D’Angelo Russell and Ricky Rubio at times for easy baskets in the paint.

Minnesota mixed in zone defense on a handful of possessions on Saturday and it worked extremely well; the Spurs don’t shoot a ton of 3-pointers but are quite good from beyond the arc. San Antonio shot 40.6 percent on 3-point attempts last night and are at 40.5 percent on the season, good for third in the NBA.

As long as Ryan Saunders is judicious with using the zone, it’s an effective tool that can surprise and confuse opposing offenses. With no DeRozan, the need to cut off driving lanes is perhaps less important, but it’ll be interesting to see how often Saunders goes to it.

Offensively, the Wolves were relatively efficient last time out, they just didn’t get to the free throw line enough, attempting only 17 free throws to the Spurs’ 29 attempts. That’s about the only way to lose a game in which you shoot an incredible 15-of-30 from beyond the arc, and the Wolves did just that.

Injury Report for Minnesota Timberwolves vs. San Antonio Spurs

As of this writing, the Wolves haven’t updated their injury report from Saturday. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Josh Okogie remain out, but the team should otherwise be healthy. (UPDATE: Towns is out with his wrist injury as the Wolves are likely just being careful in a back-to-back. Okogie is officially listed as questionable.)

As mentioned, the Spurs are listing DeRozan as out due to personal reasons.

Check back after the game for player grades. Enjoy Wolves-Spurs, Part II!