Timberwolves breeze past San Antonio

In the midst of its January swoon, one of Minnesota’s more befuddling losses was a defeat in San Antonio at the hands of the hapless Spurs.

The Wolves made certain no such disaster occurred Tuesday. Playing without Karl-Anthony Towns — who missed the game for personal reasons — Minnesota controlled play for nearly the entire way in its 114-105 home victory over San Antonio at Target Center.

Victor Wembanyama electrified Target Center in the first quarter with a nifty triple off the bounce and an attempt at finishing a bucket off the backboard on a play in which he was fouled. But Minnesota (41-17) did a nice job locking down the No. 1 overall pick from there.

He finished with just 17 points, though he did add 13 boards, five assists and three blocked shots.

“Everyone did a good job of getting up in his space and taking away his space to operate in. I thought that was really key,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “Then offensively, we were able to attack him pretty well. Having played him a number of times, you get a little more used to him being out there.”

Frankly, Minnesota flummoxed the young Spurs (11-48) for most of the evening. San Antonio often had trouble even generating a shot. The Spurs were forcing passes that weren’t there, frustrated by Minnesota’s suffocating defense. That resulted in San Antonio committing 23 turnovers that led to 30 Minnesota points.

The game wasn’t competitive, though the final score suggests otherwise. The Wolves led by as many as 24 points before committing a series of silly turnovers and bad shots that allowed San Antonio to get as close as six in the game’s final minute.

“Yeah, you could see the energy drop; the purpose and intensity drop,” Finch said. “Down on numbers, guys are tired or whatever. But I just told them, ‘We’ve got to be better at closing that game out.’”

Anthony Edwards was productive in transition. The wing finished with 34 points on a night where it looked as though he’d exit in the second frame. Edwards appeared to badly turn his ankle coming around a screen. He had to be helped off the floor by a couple of assistant coaches. But Edwards emerged from the locker room after halftime and rejoined the action.

Those mid-game scares that turn out to be nothing have become seemingly weekly occurrences for the star guard.

“In the heat of the moment, when I turn my ankle, the pain is there for sure,” Edwards said. “But once I get back here, (David) Hines was taking me through the moves and stuff. It started to feel a little bit better, get the strength back and tape it. So it feels better.”

Naz Reid referred to it as Edwards’ “Paul Pierce moment” — referring to the legendary wing once leaving the court in a wheelchair.

“I’m never really worried. He’s tough enough, he’ll come back,” Reid said. “That’s kind of like a joke that I always tell with him and Kyle, like, ‘You ain’t tired,’ or ‘You’re not hurt.’ It’s kind of just something like a little joke that we have.”

Edwards said he felt a little discomfort at the start of the second half, but then adrenaline kicked in and he was fine. It remains to be seen if he’ll be available Wednesday.

Reid added 22 points and Rudy Gobert had 13 points and 17 rebounds on a night where Kyle Anderson left the contest with hamstring tightness and did not return.

That thinned out Minnesota’s generally deep front court, but Finch noted Towns is expected back for the Wolves’ bout Wednesday with Memphis.