MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves showed off their improved defense Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
It was quite a performance by Robert Covington and company.
Covington scored 21 points, Karl-Anthony Towns and Derrick Rose each had 16 and the Timberwolves shut down the Spurs for a 128-89 victory.
“It’s big time when you get a team like that and play an organization like that, and we come out and play defense the way we did,” Towns said. “It’s a wonderful sight and it shows the hard work we’re putting in day-in and day-out.”
Minnesota (11-11) earned its fourth straight win to get to .500 for the first time since Oct. 31. Taj Gibson scored 13 points, and rookie Josh Okogie made three 3-pointers on his way to 12 points.
Minnesota had dropped 14 of its last 15 against San Antonio, but it held the Spurs to 39.5 percent shooting.
These aren’t the Spurs of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but the much-improved Timberwolves defense isn’t the same, either.
“We’re finally taking pride in it each and every night and not for a quarter, not for a few minute, not for one possession,” guard Tyus Jones said. “We’re staying locked in on that end of the floor and I think we’re starting to see it makes a difference when you’re locked in on defense.”
Minnesota led by as many as 48 before settling for its largest margin of victory against San Antonio in team history. The Timberwolves limited the Spurs to nine second-quarter points in the 15th single-digit defensive quarter in team history.
Jakob Poeltl led the Spurs with 14 points, and Marco Belinelli added 11.
Minnesota improved to 7-2 since trading disgruntled star Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia in exchange for Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a second-round draft pick.
The Wolves broke the game open with a 17-2 run to start the second quarter, mostly with their second unit on the floor. Minnesota led 57-34 at halftime, marking San Antonio’s lowest-scoring half this season.
Jakob Poeltl led the Spurs with 14 points, and Marco Belinelli added 11. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan each scored 10 and were the only starters in double figures.
San Antonio closed out a 2-2 road trip, but that didn’t mean very much to the Spurs after the blowout loss.
“You don’t want to go out there and get embarrassed,” DeRozan said.
Aldridge placed more of the blame on San Antonio’s inability to protect the ball, rather than Minnesota’s defense. The Spurs turned it over a season-high 19 times.
“No, same defense,” Aldridge said of Minnesota. “We just didn’t take care of the ball. They doubled me as they always do, so I didn’t see anything different.”
WAITING ON OKOGIE
Okogie made the most of his 10:22 of playing time. He opened the fourth quarter with a soaring dunk that brought the crowd and the Wolves bench to its feet.
“I was telling them, ‘Ya’ll better not let this lead down, ’cause I’m trying to get in there as soon as possible,'” he said with a laugh.
Spurs: F Pau Gasol is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot. The 17th-year veteran missed his 12th straight game; he had been getting some work on the court recently despite soreness. “Then they took him off because he got a second opinion that it was a stress fracture,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s what they told me so it’s not a secret I guess. So they put him back in the boot.” Gasol has played sparingly off the bench, averaging 6.6 points and 6.1 rebounds.
Timberwolves: The Wolves’ previous largest margin of victory against San Antonio was 24 twice, last done in 2013. The 39-point win also matches the Wolves’ third-largest in franchise history. … Minnesota also had a season-high 33 assists. Jeff Teague led the way with nine while Jones had eight.
Spurs: At home against Houston on Friday.
Timberwolves: Host Boston on Saturday.