Timberwolves topple Spurs
MINNEAPOLIS — Karl-Anthony Towns had grown sick of losing to the San Antonio Spurs.
The third-year Minnesota Timberwolves center had taken eight losses in eight games against San Antonio in his career. As a team, the Timberwolves hadn’t beaten the Spurs in 12 straight contests, including six in a row in Minnesota.
Towns was determined not to lose again, especially on his 22nd birthday.
Towns had 26 points and 16 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season, and Jeff Teague added 16 points and six assists for the Timberwolves in a 98-86 win over San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.
“It was something, I came in and told (coach Tom Thibodeau), ‘We ain’t going to lose this one,’ and made sure to go out there and keep my promise,” Towns said, later adding: “To go out there and say, ‘Wow, got the dub’ is big. That’s a team that if we want to be the team we want to be, we got to go against them and we got to get past them in seven games.”
Nemanja Bjelica added 11 points off the Minnesota bench, which outscored San Antonio’s bench 29-26 and keyed a second-quarter run to give the Timberwolves the lead after a sluggish start.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who had won five of their previous six games and beat the Timberwolves in the opener for both teams this season. Aldridge was limited to four points in 10 first-half minutes after getting into foul trouble.
“When your best player gets into foul trouble and can’t play in a normal rhythm, it’s going to affect you a little bit,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “But, be that as it may, I think Minnesota is a fine, young, talented squad. They’re deep. Thibs is obviously great and they’re getting better and better, week by week. So, they’re a tough matchup so you better have all your wits about you and you better execute well at both ends. They did that very well tonight.”
Pau Gasol added 13 points as San Antonio continues without injured Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker.
“They compete, they’ve always done that,” Aldridge said of the Wolves. “Thibs is a defensive guy, so I don’t think he’s doing anything I haven’t seen. They’re playing winning basketball and they make things, like a tough loss tonight and they got the win.”
The Spurs were traveling on the second end of a back-to-back after winning in Dallas on Tuesday, but it was Minnesota that struggled at the start by shooting 7 of 26 (26.9 percent) in the first quarter.
San Antonio opened an eight-point lead to start the second quarter before the Timberwolves started their run with the bench providing a big spark. Minnesota converted on 14 of its first 16 shots and took a 31-30 lead on Shabazz Muhammad’s 3-pointer.
Muhammad scored all nine of his points off the bench in the second half.
Reserve point guard Tyus Jones added four points and four assists in the second for the Timberwolves, who took their biggest lead of the game at 14 points entering halftime as Teague hit a buzzer-beating runner in the lane.
“The bench saved us,” Thibodeau said. “It was good. I thought Bazz was terrific. He came in and gave us a big boost. Bjelly, Tyus, that whole group played really well together. Jamal, Jamal (Crawford) was terrific.”
The veteran Spurs wouldn’t go away, just as in the season opener when they closed with a 16-7 run in the final five minutes to win 107-99.
Towns hit two 3s in the fourth quarter and Minnesota surrendered just seven turnovers to San Antonio’s 16 in finally beating the Spurs.
“I think we just want to improve; each day, each game,” Thibodeau said. “We know who they are. They’re a terrific team. They’re a deep team. They’re a team with a lot of experience and they don’t beat themselves. You have to play for 48 minutes against them.”
NOTES: Minnesota F Gorgui Dieng was held out for the third straight game with a sprained right index finger. C Cole Aldrich was dressed but did not play with a sprained left ankle. ... San Antonio’s bench had outscored the opposition’s bench in 12 of the first 14 games this season, including the previous eight games. ... Timberwolves G Jimmy Butler had six points on 2-of-13 shooting. He added five rebounds and four assists. ... Minnesota had scored at least 100 points in a franchise-record 12 straight games. The Spurs are the only team to hold the Timberwolves below 100 this season.