Wolves face Spurs in battle of first vs. worst in West

The Minnesota Timberwolves will look to continue their recent solid play when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday in a battle of first versus worst in the Western Conference.

The Timberwolves sit atop the West and have won seven of their past 10 games, most recently a 101-86 victory at home over Brooklyn on Saturday in the second of a home back-to-back set. Anthony Edwards led Minnesota with 29 points while Karl-Anthony Towns added 28 points and nine rebounds and Mike Conley tallied 14 points.

Minnesota was at its best late, going on a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter that turned a two-point lead into an 89-78 advantage and cruising from there.

Rudy Gobert sat out the second night of a back-to-back set as he battles back from a left ankle sprain. Even without the defensive stalwart, Minnesota held Brooklyn to 33.7 percent shooting from the floor in the Timberwolves’ second game after the All-Star break.

“It was not pretty,” Conley said afterward. “You just kind of have to build yourself back up this first week from All-Star break, and we’ll continue to do that. This was a game where we were just trying to find any energy we could get. We needed everybody that went into that game today. You could just tell our energy level with the way we weren’t moving with the ball, weren’t moving without the ball, or getting back on defense.

“For us to still find a way to win, that’s what good teams are able to do, and we were able to do it.”

Tuesday’s contest is the third of a season-long seven-game homestand for the Timberwolves.

“We’ve put ourselves in really good position, and we’ve got to capitalize,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “We don’t expect things to be easy, but we have to play with more purpose than we’re playing right now.”

For the Spurs, it’s not about playing with purpose but rather turning their hard work and effort into wins. San Antonio heads to Minneapolis after a 128-109 loss in Utah on Sunday and has dropped four straight. The Spurs are 1-7 in the first eight games of their nine-game annual Rodeo Road Trip that ends Tuesday.

Devin Vassell led San Antonio with 27 points in Sunday’s setback. Victor Wembanyama added 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, Zach Collins had 17 points, Tre Jones tallied 15 and Malaki Branham chipped in 14 points. The Spurs have dropped 11 of 12 overall and are at the bottom of the West standings.

The Spurs were doomed by a lackluster first half during which they scored just 39 points and trailed by 24 at halftime.

“(We had a) very poor start,” Wembanyama said. “It’s the consistency, as always, and we were a little bit slow and sloppy today and maybe tired. But we’ve got to make extra efforts and play smart, which we didn’t do. There’s always going to be mistakes.”

The Timberwolves have won two of their first three games against San Antonio this season.