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Surging Spurs bid to take down Timberwolves

Sportsnaut
Apr 5, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs are looking to keep their momentum headed in the right direction Thursday when they play the host Minnesota Timberwolves at Minneapolis.

Both teams at least have earned spots in the play-in tournament, however each club will still have something on the line in Thursday’s game.

Minnesota (45-35) is guaranteed no worse than seventh place in the Western Conference — and a home game in the play-in tournament. The Timberwolves, however, could earn the sixth seed and avoid the play-in tournament if they win their final two games and Denver drops its final two.

The Spurs (34-45) can finish ninth in the West — and secure a home game in the play-in tournament — if they end up tied with New Orleans. San Antonio owns the tiebreaker with the Pelicans via a 3-1 edge in games between the teams this season; both the Spurs and New Orleans have three regular-season contests remaining.

It all came together for the Spurs after they won three in a row and seven of their past eight games to climb past the Los Angeles Lakers into the play-in tournament. San Antonio heads to Minneapolis after clinching a play-in spot with a 116-97 win at Denver on Tuesday.

“We’ve got a game on Thursday and we’re going to play that,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “Not worry about anything else. It’s not like we’re world-beaters. I was really happy with our aggressiveness the whole game.”

Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell poured in 20 points apiece to lead the Spurs. Josh Richardson pitched in 18 points off the bench, Jakob Poeltl and Tre Jones added 14 each and Zach Collins had 13.

“I’m proud of that achievement,” Poeltl said of the team making the play-in tournament. “I don’t think we’re satisfied yet. We want to take those opportunities and win those games and make it to the playoffs.”

San Antonio played its third consecutive game without All-Star point guard Dejounte Murray, who is batting an upper-respiratory illness.

Minnesota fell for the fifth time in its last eight games with a 132-114 setback to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.

Karl-Anthony Towns collected 26 points and 10 rebounds, Anthony Edwards scored 18 points and D’Angelo Russell added with 17 points and 11 assists for the Timberwolves.

“We didn’t look like a team that was trying to make the playoffs,” Towns said after Tuesday’s loss. “We looked a little lethargic. Can’t afford that on games like this against a team like (Washington). It was like a trap game. I’ve been there when you’re out of the playoffs and you just want to spoil everyone’s fun. We knew what they were going to come with.”

Minnesota rallied to within four points late in the third quarter before Washington dominated the final 12 minutes. The Timberwolves have allowed more than 130 points in four of their past five games.

“We just got outcompeted,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “(Washington) played harder, which is disappointing given everything we have to play for. The inability to contain the ball right now is really hurting us. We can’t really sit down and guard the ball.”

The Timberwolves’ Patrick Beverley was held out for a second straight game because of a sore right ankle.

–Field Level Media