San Antonio insisted it wouldn't let coach Gregg Popovich's absence affect its play after learning the news prior to a brief road trip. Then the Spurs suffered through their worst shooting performance of the season and had their eight-game winning streak snapped.
Popovich won't be on the bench for Tuesday night's visit to Minnesota either as San Antonio looks to bounce back by beating the Timberwolves for the seventh consecutive meeting.
The Spurs (53-10) announced at Monday morning's shootaround that assistant Ettore Messina would act as head coach during their two-game trip while Popovich attends to a family medical situation. Messina said the players knew before departing San Antonio that Popovich wouldn't accompany them.
The club didn't release details, but Popovich is expected to return Thursday against Chicago at home. Reserve forward David West told reporters before the game he didn't expect anything to change against Indiana, but the Spurs shot 35.4 percent from the field - including a season worst-tying 14.3 percent from 3-point range - in a 99-91 loss to his former team.
San Antonio's 96 shots set a season high and its 28 3-point attempts tied its most of the season, with Kawhi Leonard going 1 for 7 from deep. Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge (12 rebounds) scored 23 points apiece for San Antonio, which entered the game shooting a league-best 49.1 percent from the floor.
The Spurs' 13 points in the first marked their fewest of any quarter this season. They also had a six-game road winning streak snapped as Tony Parker had only six points and left early with a bruised left toe.
''We were getting some good looks, it just happens sometimes,'' Messina said. ''We were just not as sharp as we could have been.''
The Spurs have shot 52.6 percent while winning both meetings with the Timberwolves (20-44) this season - 108-83 on Dec. 23 and 101-95 on Dec. 28. They haven't lost in the series since falling at Minnesota on April 8, 2014.
Rookie Karl-Anthony Towns has posted a double-double in each matchup and ranks among the league leaders with 36. He finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds in a 108-103 loss at Charlotte and is averaging 25.7 points and shooting 70 percent from the floor over his last three.
Minnesota has dropped three of its last four, though, and has allowed an average of 112.4 points while giving up triple digits in 15 straight. The Wolves' last 28 opponents have shot at least 42.1 percent from the field and they rank among the worst in the league with a field-goal percentage defense of 46.1 on the season.
Andrew Wiggins has done his best to make up for the defensive issues over the last two, scoring 26 points in Saturday's win over Brooklyn before netting 25 on Monday. He shot 67.7 percent while making each of his three 3-point attempts, but he's hit 35.1 percent from the floor in six career games against the Spurs.
"The thing that got us was we had times we weren't scoring and we weren't playing defense,'' Wiggins said. ''We played hard. The whole team, we gave it our all.''
Minnesota waived veteran guard Kevin Martin on Wednesday, and Martin has agreed to join San Antonio. The Spurs, though, haven't waived anyone to open a roster spot, leaving Martin's team debut uncertain.