• It was opening night when the Wolves fell to the Spurs. Almost exactly one month later, both teams sit right next to each other in the standings. The Spurs are still without Kawhi Leonard, but they haven’t missed much of a beat so far.

    Sitting at 9-5, the Spurs are still managing to play their 3-and-D style offense despite losing their best two-way player. As a team the Spurs are sixth in the NBA in both 3-point percentage and defensive rating. The Spurs’ methodical approach to offense can lull unsuspecting teams into defensive breakdowns.

    They make every pass with a purpose, forcing teams to commit to defense for an entire possession. Rarely do they waste the shot clock dribbling in place, unless it’s in the post. Even then shooters are ready for kick-outs and are constantly in motion for back screens or weak-side buckets.

    The team ranks 27th in pace but that is as a result of the players being patient in finding the best shot every possession as opposed to a dribble-heavy slow pace.

    Defensively the Spurs do a tremendous job of defending without fouling. They allow the fourth least amount of opponent free-throws per game. The Wolves on the other hand attempt the third most free-throws per game. It will be interesting to see what gives in this matchup.

    Minnesota will look to do a better job of rebounding the ball in this matchup versus the Spurs than their first game, when they were out-rebounded and allowed 12 offensive rebounds.

    This is the Wolves’ only home game this week. After this game, they head back out on the road so this is an important opportunity to snag a home win. The schedule makers did not do Minnesota any favors with the early season slate. The Wolves have only played more than one game at home once, and it was a back-to-back.

    It feels like they have been on the move for much of this season. They won’t be making any excuses though.

    Key Matchups:

    – Teague vs. Mills

    – Gibson and Towns vs. Aldridge and Gasol

    Popovich inserted Mills into the starting lineup seven games ago and Mills’ shooting woes were left on the bench. Mills was quiet in the first matchup, uncharacteristically taking the fewest amount of shots (four) among players with 10-plus minutes.

    Patty’s activity has increased since entering the starting lineup and the Spurs’ offense has as well. He’s one of the quickest players on the floor at all times. Teague will need to chase him through screens and be sure to stay close to him at all times.

    The battle of the frontcourts will be the main key in this game. In the first matchup Gasol had some tough moments versus Towns and was subbed out for the more mobile Rudy Gay. Aldridge would then, in-turn, guard Towns. Neither player had much success.

    Conversely, Towns struggled defensively versus Aldridge. Towns hasn’t improved to a significant degree since the start of the season, but perhaps with the prior matchup under his belt and some film to study he can make incremental improvements on defense.

    Gibson struggled significantly to stay in front of anyone and was thoroughly outplayed by Bejlica, but Taj has played significantly better since that game and Thibs is unlikely to go away from him in this one.

    The winner of this game could be determined by who slows down the other team’s big men.

    Lineups:

    Teague

    Butler

    Wiggins

    Gibson

    Towns

    vs.

    Mills

    Green

    Anderson

    Aldridge

    Gasol

    Injuries:

    Gorgui Dieng (finger) – OUT

    Justin Patton (foot) – OUT

    Kahwi Leonard (quad) – OUT

    Tony Parker (quad) – OUT

    Derrick White – OUT

    Where to Watch:

    8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT on Fox Sports North

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