Aldridge’s 25 points lead Spurs past new-look Timberwolves
SAN ANTONIO — No Kawhi Leonard, no Tony Parker, no problem. Even shorthanded and without one of the top players in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs were too much for the new-look Minnesota Timberwolves to handle Wednesday.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 25 points and pulled down 10 rebounds and, as expected, led the Spurs to a 107-99 victory over Minnesota at AT&T Center in the season opener for both teams. Aldridge, who signed a three-year, $72.3 million contract extension on Monday, paced four teammates in double-figure scoring, playing so well that San Antonio barely missed its two injured stalwarts.
“We played well,” Aldridge said. “We weren’t as sharp as we can be, but I think it’s a good first step in the right direction. I felt good. I tried to make good reads out of double-teams and tried to put pressure on (Minnesota) down low.”
Yes, Aldridge was good, but some of the other Spurs had a say in things, too.
San Antonio trailed 92-91 after a pull-up jumper by Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler with 5:02 to play but reassumed the lead on jumpers by Dejounte Murray and Rudy Gay. Danny Green then expanded the lead to 98-92 with a 3-pointer from the corner to help salt way the game.
Green added 17 points for San Antonio, which won the first game of its season for the 19th time in the 21 years Gregg Popovich has been coach. Murray scored 16 while Gay added 14, and Kyle Anderson tallied 12 points and took nine rebounds for the Spurs.
“We prepared ourselves well in training camp and preseason,” said Murray, the second-year point guard who’s getting most of Parker’s minutes. “We have a lot of new guys and everybody is blending in and knowing that they have a role. We just have to go out and play hard for one another.”
Andrew Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 26 points, and Karl-Anthony Towns racked up his first double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Butler, one of Minnesota’s flashy offseason signings, added 12 points while two other new faces for the Timberwolves, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford, scored 11 and 10 points.
“We didn’t rebound like we were capable of, and we turned the ball over late in the game and we can’t do that,” Butler said. “They got what they wanted to get. We had a lot of ups and we put ourselves in a position to win, though. They did what they were supposed to do, and we didn’t. That’s a really good team over there, even when they have two really good players out. They always find a way to win.”
Minnesota got within two points early in the third quarter and trailed 66-63 at the 6:47 mark. But San Antonio got a driving scoop shot from Murray and a 3-pointer off the fast break by Green to push its advantage back 73-63 and led 87-77 heading to the final quarter.
“We didn’t close out the way we needed to against a team like that,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You have to play, particularly down the stretch. We just have to do better. We didn’t have a lot of turnovers but the ones we had were very costly. That’s something we have to take a look at.”
NOTES: San Antonio played without F Kawhi Leonard and venerable PG Tony Parker because of quadriceps injuries. Parker suffered his injury in last season’s playoffs and is targeting a November return to the court; Leonard did not practice or play during the preseason and his availability is yet to be determined. ... Minnesota began the season on the road for the fourth straight year. Before this four-year stretch, the Timberwolves opened their season at home (at Target Center) for 13 consecutive years, the second-longest home streak in NBA history, and the longest for any team in the same city and arena. ... After being considered one of the oldest teams in the league for years, this edition of the Spurs’ roster has six players who were born after 1993. ... The Spurs have taken the past 12 games from Minnesota, including eight in a row at AT&T Center, since a 108-95 Wolves victory April 17, 2013.