Every game Minnesota plays early in the campaign adds to the evidence that this might just be a great team.
The latest example came Friday, as the Timberwolves found another gear in the second half of their 117-110 victory in San Antonio.
Minnesota got off to a slow start Friday, committing seven turnovers in the first quarter against the Spurs. But they still managed to lead by two at the break and pulled away in the third quarter thanks to a dominant defensive frame in which Minnesota held the Spurs to 9-for-27 shooting.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 13 points in the same frame as Minnesota opened up a 17-point advantage. Towns finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds in the contest.
Friday marked Minnesota’s first in-season tournament game of the season. In the big picture, the win over San Antonio (3-6) was just another victory in the regular-season column. But it also is a victory for the Wolves in their pool-play record as they attempt to move out of their group and into the knockout phase of the tournament in its inaugural run.
Friday marked a true test for Minnesota (6-2). Yes, beating a severely short-handed New Orleans team showed some maturity for the Wolves. But beating a youth-filled Spurs team Friday showed more. They more closely mimic the types of teams Minnesota dropped games to last season.
And while the Wolves flirted with disaster on a few occasions Friday — their late-game execution again left something to be desired — they proved that, with their significant talent gap, they are capable of putting enough good basketball forward even on an off night to ultimately deliver the desired result.
San Antonio made it interesting down the stretch, but Anthony Edwards helped close via a couple strong drives to the bucket and Minnesota made the requisite free throws to slam the door shut. He finished with 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
In the end, Minnesota’s half-court defense is so strong that it’s difficult for interior teams to make up the gap it creates.
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