Skidding Timberwolves face tall task vs. Spurs
The Minnesota Timberwolves had struggled to keep pace with several other teams vying for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Minnesota's current three-game losing streak hasn't helped matters.
Entering Tuesday's game against the San Antonio Spurs, the Timberwolves had dropped their last three contests - all on the road. Minnesota (28-41) allowed 123 points each against Miami and New Orleans and 117 against Boston on the trip as its defense disappeared during its skid.
"We came in with a lot of confidence and coming out of a road trip like this with no wins, it's rough," Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns told the Minneapolis Star Tribune after Sunday's loss to the Pelicans. "We're fighting for our lives. It seems like the last three games we're going up there with the knife at our own throats."
Meanwhile, San Antonio has already clinched a playoff spot. The Spurs bounced back from a two-game losing streak to top Sacramento on Sunday in San Antonio.
"We came back after a couple of losses pretty well," head coach Gregg Popovich told Spurs.com on Sunday.
The two straight losses matched the longest such streak this year by San Antonio (53-16). The Spurs had four players score in double-figures off the bench in Sunday's win against the Kings, including a team-high 22 points from Pau Gasol.
San Antonio turned the ball over just six times in the victory over the Kings, the fewest turnovers the Spurs have committed all season.
"I think we played better defense," forward Kawhi Leonard told Spurs.com. "We talked a little bit more out there, had a little bit more energy. We just stayed within ourselves."
Tuesday marks the fourth and final meeting in the regular season between San Antonio and Minnesota. The Timberwolves have yet to top the Spurs, losing to San Antonio as recently as March 4 in a 97-90 overtime defeat.
With Nemanja Bjelica sidelined for the rest of the year with a foot injury, Minnesota added Omri Casspi to the roster on Monday. The eight-year veteran forward spent most of this season with Sacramento and had a brief stint with New Orleans.
In 23 games this season, the 6-foot-9 Casspi averaged 6.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. The Timberwolves are his fifth team of his NBA career.
Thanks to its three-game losing streak, Minnesota is behind Denver, Portland, Dallas and New Orleans for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. With just 13 games remaining, there aren't many opportunities left for the young Timberwolves to make up ground.
"Our hopes were high, we were playing well, but on this road trip we played like we did at the beginning of the season, like we don't care," Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "It's a shame that we get three games like that, seeming like it's not important when they were the most important we played all season."
Updated March 20, 2017