|Timberwolves' bounce-back chance comes vs. Spurs|
When the season started, people were talking about the Minnesota Timberwolves for all the right reasons -- as a team poised to become a force in the Western Conference.
But the reality has not followed the expectations, and the Timberwolves are still trying to find themselves and develop momentum as they host the San Antonio Spurs on Friday at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
The latest head-scratching performance from Minnesota came during a 149-107 face-plant at home against Philadelphia on Tuesday in the return to the Twin Cities by former Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler.
Butler, who was traded to the 76ers early in the season for Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Jerryd Bayless, scored 19 points in his first game against Minnesota since he forced the move.
Derrick Rose led the Timberwolves (21-23) with 15 points off the bench in the loss, with Karl-Anthony Towns adding 13 and Andrew Wiggins scoring 12 points.
Most of the Timberwolves blamed the result on lack of effort and a reoccurrence of a problem that has affected Minnesota this season.
"We just got to be a rugged team," guard Jeff Teague said. "We can't be a pretty team. I think we're a pretty team right now. And pretty gets us beat by 40 points. We got to be ugly."
Interim coach Ryan Saunders, who is 2-2 after he took over from the fired Tom Thibodeau on Jan. 6, said how his team handles the loss would be a good lesson.
"It's about not getting too high and not getting too low on things and still taking things day by day in terms of improvement," Saunders told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We look forward to getting better after a showing like this."
The Spurs (26-20) conclude their short two-game trip after outlasting Dallas 105-101 on Wednesday while snapping a two-game losing streak. San Antonio weathered a torrid beginning by the Mavericks -- Dallas scored 23 of the game's first 27 points -- and secured the win with Davis Bertans' 3-pointer with 1:46 to play.
Marco Belinelli returned to the lineup after sitting out San Antonio's loss to Charlotte on Monday and led the Spurs with 17 points. Rudy Gay also was in the lineup after a five-game absence because of a left wrist injury; he scored 14 points in the win. Patty Mills and DeMar DeRozan added 14 points each in the victory.
Gay played with a brace on his wrist. Asked afterward if the injury was fully healed, he told the San Antonio Express News that it felt "(good) enough to play. I eventually stopped worrying about it."
Gay, who is in his 13th NBA season, finished the game with 15,004 points, becoming one of just three players to record at least 15,000 points, 4,000 rebounds and 1,000 steals since 2006. The other two are the Lakers' LeBron James and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook.
"I've been around for a while," Gay said about the milestone.
"I've been through injuries, been on subpar teams. Being able to still be here and accomplish something like that, I guess it's a pretty big thing. I feel like I have a lot more left. I'm going to get ready to try to get (15,000) more, I guess."
San Antonio has won two of the three games against the Timberwolves this season but has lost two straight in the Twin Cities, including a 128-89 defeat on Nov. 28. The Spurs own a 88-30 all-time record against Minnesota.
--Field Level Media