Minnesota Timberwolves vs San Antonio Spurs: Lineups, preview & prediction 3/17/18

Both Minnesota and San Antonio are locked in the battle for playoff positions in the west, giving this game an added air of importance

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After dropping out of the top eight places in the Western Conference Standings for the first time in seemingly forever, the Spurs (39-30) have returned to eighth on the back of two important victories, the latest of these was a 98-93 win over the Pelicans. After a fast first half, the Spurs slowed things down to their preferred speed, winning the second half 38-35.

San Antonio are just 1.5 games from fourth, and one team locked in this cluster of teams vying for playoff spots is the Timberwolves. The Timberwolves sit in fifth place with a record of 40-29, just a solitary win ahead of the Spurs.

They have had a tough stretch of games recently, but have performed well in their last two to beat the Wizards and the Warriors. Against Washington, Karl-Anthony Towns continued his great form with 37 points, ten rebounds, and three assists. 

Three keys to the game

Is Minnesota’s tough schedule wearing them down? – The Timberwolves haven’t had to play a lot of games in a short period of time, but the quality of teams they’ve played of late, and will play in the near future, has been high. Their last five opponents have been the Blazers, the Jazz, the Celtics, the Warriors and the Wizards, and their next three are against the Spurs, the Rockets, and the Clippers. These eight teams all have records well over .500, and combined are 348-198 – a win rate of 0.637.

Home court advantage – The location of this matchup appears significant given each team’s respective records. The Spurs have been terrific at home this season, splitting their games 25-8 and winning their past three. The Timberwolves, in contrast, are 14-21 on the road, woeful for a team which boasts a 40-29 overall record.

Which KAT? – Towns has been, mostly, fantastic of late, but when he is not he is making no significant contributions. In his past two games, Towns has scored 30+ points in each and averaged 34 points and 13 rebounds. The two games prior, he averaged just nine shots a game for 14 points and 7.5 rebounds. At his best, Towns is an efficient and very hard to stop scorer, but some games he hardly takes any shots. Both the Timberwolves and Towns need to attempt to get him involved in this game.

Matchup to watch

LaMarcus Aldridge vs Karl-Anthony Towns – With Popovich opting to start Gasol on the bench and play him limited minutes in the past few games, Aldridge has been playing big minutes at the five, meaning he will go head-to-head with Towns in this game.

Aldridge is having a terrific season, for which he was rewarded with an All-Star appearance, averaging 22.2 points on 49.8% shooting, 8.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 blocks, and carrying the Spurs offense in the absence of Leonard. Towns’ defense is still a point of weakness, and Aldridge will look to exploit the young center at that end of the floor.

At Minnesota’s offensive end, however, Aldridge will have his hands full. Towns averages 20.7 points on 54.9% shooting and is shooting 42.1% from long range this season, incredible from a man his size. This ability to stretch the floor will provide a unique challenge for Aldridge and will make this a fascinating matchup to watch.

San Antonio Spurs predicted starting lineup

PG – Patty Mills | SG – Dejounte Murray | SF – Danny Green | PF – Kyle Anderson | C – LaMarcus Aldridge

Minnesota Timberwolves predicted starting lineup

PG – Jeff Teague | SG – Andrew Wiggins | SF – Nemanja Bjelica | PF – Taj Gibson | C – Karl-Anthony Towns

Fantasy tip

These sides have split their two matchups 1-1 so far this season, but Towns has been a problem for the Spurs in both. He has shot 54.5% from the field on the way to an average of 22 points, 14.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks. He has been less efficient than usual in nine career games against the Spurs, going at just 47.8% from the field, but he still contributes 18.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and just under a block and a steal.

Betting tip

The over/under points total has been set at 212 points in this game, which is too high. The Timberwolves have a relatively potent offense and a suspect defense, but the Spurs play at a very slow pace and will minimize the number of possessions in the game. Take the under here.

Prediction

The Spurs will move to just half a game behind the Timberwolves with a win here, further tightening the playoff race in the Western Conference. Towns will put in a good performance, but on the road and after a tough stretch of games, they won’t be able to overcome the Spurs. 

San Antonio will be boosted by the ever-reliable Aldridge’s 25 points, and their defense will limit the Timberwolves to under 100 points. The Spurs will leave with an important victory at home, running out 101-96 winners.

TV info

The game will be broadcast locally on FSSW and Fox Sports North Plus. Tip-off is at 8:30pm ET.

 

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