The Timberwolves have a fourth-quarter problem.
Entering Saturday night's matchup in San Antonio, the Wolves had scored 75 points in the fourth quarter of their previous four games, the lowest of any team in any four-game stretch this season.
That's right, the same Wolves who have sat atop the Western Conference standings for much of the season have had worse fourth-quarter scoring over the last week than anyone this year.
That statistic includes a nine-point blown fourth-quarter lead against the Thunder last weekend, as well as Monday's 15-point collapse against the Hornets. Now, they can add another one to the list after falling to the Spurs 113-112 on Saturday night in a game that they led by as many as 15.
"They played much better down the stretch," Wolves coach Chris Finch said of the Spurs. "They made all the 50-50 plays. They made all the tough shots... I thought it was a game we had a chance to push out the lead at times during the game and we weren't able to do that, so that's probably what cost us more than anything."
It was the Wolves' second loss to one of the NBA's worst teams in the span of six days, following Monday's loss to Charlotte. This one knocked the Wolves a half-game behind Oklahoma City for the top spot in the Western Conference — the first time they haven't had at least a share of that spot since Nov. 18.
San Antonio's young stars, Victor Wembanyama and Devin Vassell, led the way in the Spurs' comeback. Wembanyama had 23 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals, while Vassell scored a team-high 25 points, making 11 of 17 shot attempts.
"He's an amazing young player, and he's going to be the future and the face of the league," Finch said of Wembanyama. "He had a great game tonight."
''They wanted it more,'' Edwards told reporters in San Antonio. ''They got every loose ball. They got the loose ball that determined the game at the end. They just wanted it a lot more than we did.''
Finch told reporters at his pregame press conference that the defense had seemed to fix itself and that Monday's performance against Charlotte was an anomaly. Yet, there seemed to be no defense present to begin the outing in the Frost Bank Center. Wembanyama scored 11 points in the first four minutes.
The one thing that did cause the teams to slow down involved a winged creature, a coyote and a Batman suit. Following a Wembanyama three-pointer, the game was halted when a bat flew down from the rafters, disrupting play. The Coyote, the Spurs' Batman-suit-clad mascot, dashed onto the court waving a net through the air and, after flailing his arms for a minute, trapped the bat to the floor so the game could resume.
After Wembanyama subbed out, the Wolves went on a 20-5 run to take a 36-23 lead after one quarter. They went into halftime ahead 64-52.
The Wolves came out of the halftime break with guns blazing, but San Antonio refused to go away. An Edwards three with under a minute left helped keep Minnesota ahead by 10 points entering the fourth.
But again, the Wolves couldn't maintain their lead late. A 10-2 San Antonio run forced Finch to call timeout, and a Doug McDermott three, San Antonio's third of the quarter, gave the Spurs their first lead since the first quarter.
A three from Nickeil Alexander-Walker late in the clock tied the score at 100-100. The Wolves and Spurs alternated shots, going punch for punch, and a layup from Vassell that took a two-point lead meant San Antonio had made its last eight shots. Following an Edwards miss, Wembanyama hit what appeared to be the dagger, a three from the left wing with two minutes remaining that seemingly sealed another late Wolves collapse.
Edwards, however, hit a three to make it a two-point game, and after a pair of missed Wembanyama free throws, the Wolves' leading scorer tied the game at 112-112 with a reverse layup. Keldon Johnson was fouled on the ensuing possession and hit a free throw, giving the Wolves nine seconds and a chance to win the game. The opportunity went to waste, as Towns couldn't get a shot off, and the Wolves suffered their third gut-wrenching loss in eight days.
The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material