The San Antonio Spurs have owned the Minnesota Timberwolves in recent years, but without their best player, they will be challenged to continue their dominance in Wednesday’s season opener (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).
Kawhi Leonard (quad) has been ruled out of tonight’s game at AT&T Center, along with point guard Tony Parker (also a quad). The Spurs went 7-1 in the regular season last year in games without Leonard.
With Parker out, expect a bigger night from Patty Mills. In the 19 games Parker missed last season, Mills averaged 12.9 points per game on 27.1 minutes per game, compared to 8.4 PPG and 20.3 MPG in 61 games with Parker.
Spurs looking to extend streaks
San Antonio has won 11 consecutive games against Minnesota, including all four meetings last season. The 11-game streak is tied for their second-longest active win streak versus any opponent.
The two teams on the opposite end of the longest active playoff streaks in the NBA. While the Spurs have made the playoffs in 20 consecutive seasons (by far the longest active streak in the league), the Timberwolves have missed the playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons, which is the NBA’s longest playoff drought.
Will Towns pick up where he left off?
Karl-Anthony Towns is 1,436 points away from 5,000 for his career. He is 635 rebounds away from 2,500. If he hits both of those marks, he’d be the first player with 5,000 points and 2,500 rebounds in his first three seasons since Shaquille O’Neal did so between 1992-95.
Towns will hope to build on his strong second half of last season; he averaged 28.4 points (fifth-best in the NBA) and 13.4 rebounds per game (fourth-best) after the All-Star break. In addition, he shot nearly 60 percent from the field and over 43 percent on 3-pointers.
Butler’s impact in the clutch
The Timberwolves lost 25 games in which they led at any point in the fourth quarter last season, the most such losses in the NBA. Newcomer Jimmy Butler, a three-time All-Star, should help close out those tight games this season. Only MVP Russell Westbrook (53.1) had a higher Player Efficiency Rating in the clutch last season than Butler (44.5).
Leonard historically impressive vs. Wolves
The Wolves won’t miss playing against Leonard, who averaged more than 30 points per game in the four meetings between the two teams and shot nearly 59 percent from the field. Leonard’s 30.3 PPG against Minnesota last season was his most against any Western Conference team. He didn’t just impress on offense, though. Defensively, he was instrumental in holding guard Andrew Wiggins to an average of 15 points on 32-percent shooting.