The San Antonio Spurs will be walking tall into a road game Saturday against a downtrodden Minnesota Timberwolves team that has been unable to find its way without big man Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Spurs and Timberwolves are set to play a doubleheader in the Twin Cities, with a quick transition to a second game on Sunday.
The Spurs put a four-game losing streak to an end in grand style, taking over Los Angeles this week with a victory over the Clippers on Tuesday and another over the champion Lakers on Thursday.
The encouraging aspect of Thursday's victory cannot be understated. Not only did San Antonio hang a 118-109 victory on the Lakers, but it was far from a sneak attack since the Spurs just showed what they were capable of doing in a 116-113 victory over the Clippers two days earlier in the same building.
The Lakers were essentially in full operation with LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the court, although they were missing guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The Spurs went right after the Lakers, taking a 34-26 lead after one quarter while LaMarcus Aldridge scored 28 points in the game and DeMar DeRozan had 19 points with eight assists.
The Spurs are now 4-1 when Aldridge is on the court. The veteran missed two previous defeats against the Lakers around New Year's with left knee soreness.
"It's the same style of play as last year, there's nothing different," head coach Gregg Popovich said in comparing this year's team with his 32-29 squad from a year ago that went 1-6 against both L.A. teams. "We've just been together a little longer, added a couple more players, we're a little deeper than we were and they're playing well."
Saturday begins a stretch when the 4-4 Spurs can really get on track. After two games at Minnesota and a visit to Oklahoma City, they head back home for a pair of games against the disjointed Houston Rockets next week.
After a 2-0 start, the Timberwolves are on a six-game losing streak. The most recent defeat came Thursday when they fell 135-117 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
If there is any consolation in a defeat it is that the 117 points were the Timberwolves' most in any game this season. Of course, the 135 they allowed also was a season high.
Rookie and No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Edwards continues to come into his own. He matched teammate D'Angelo Russell with a season-high 26 points Thursday. He did need 21 shots to get there, though, and was 3 of 10 from 3-point range.
A defense that saw the Trail Blazers shoot 54.4 percent from the field still needs work. Entering NBA play on Friday, Minnesota's 121.9 points allowed per game was second worst in the NBA to the Washington Wizards (122.9).
"Chemistry plays a major role in (defense), figuring out problems, but I think we're all right, though," Russell said. "I think we can look on the film and see where we can act on those missteps and try to get better from it. ... Make sure it's not you the next time."
Towns remains out indefinitely after he dislocated his wrist two games into the season. The Wolves won both games when he was on the court and have lost every game since.
--Field Level Media