The San Antonio Spurs got a much-needed road win Friday, knocking off the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-113 in a back-and-forth contest at the Target Center.
One problem for the Spurs so far this season has been their struggle away from home. They entered Friday with an 8-14 record outside of San Antonio, worst among all teams currently in the Western Conference playoffs.
Head coach Gregg Popovich has his squad gaining confidence outside of their friendly confines with consecutive road wins over the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota.
With DeMar DeRozan sitting out because of ankle soreness, LaMarcus Aldridge overcame early struggles to finish with 25 points. The Spurs had six players reach double figures in scoring, including Rudy Gay with 22 and Derrick White, who continued his recent hot streak with 15 on 6-of-8 shooting.
Karl-Anthony Towns was limited to 21 minutes because of foul trouble. The T-Wolves star still finished with 23 points and six rebounds before recording his sixth foul in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota also had six players reach double figures, including all five starters. Derrick Rose had 23 points off the bench but missed the game-tying three as time expired.
Deep Roster Makes Spurs Western Conference Sleeper
It would be a mistake to underestimate the Spurs heading into the second half of the season.
Popovich appeared to be in over his head early in the year. The group looked lost after a brutal stretch with 12 losses in 17 games dropped San Antonio's record to 11-14.
Since that time, though, the Spurs have looked like the dominant force they've been for the past two decades. They're 16-6 in the past 22 games after Friday's win and are doing it with a deep bench of contributors to choose from.
Marco Belinelli remains San Antonio's ace off the bench. The 32-year-old dropped 19 points against the Timberwolves by going 3-of-8 from three-point range.
Per Jeff Garcia of News 4 San Antonio, the Spurs' offensive rating is more than three points higher (112.9) with Belinelli on the court than when he's on the bench (109.5).
"He brings a different type of energy when he comes out there, stretching the floor and getting to the basket, and kind of feed off of the things he does," DeMar DeRozan told Garcia about Belinelli.
While Belinelli has long been an asset for Popovich, there are some new players emerging as integral role players. White was red-hot in his past 10 games, averaging 15.6 points on 64.4 percent shooting and 3.6 assists per game.
When LaMarcus Aldridge struggled early against the Timberwolves by going 2-of-11, White carried the offense to keep San Antonio in the game.
Bryn Forbes entered Friday ranked fourth among all shooting guards with a 41.9 percent success rate on three-point attempts. He went 2-of-4 behind the arc against Minnesota's defense in the win.
DeRozan has changed his game under Popovich to become a more effective all-around player. The 29-year-old is averaging career highs in rebounds (6.1) and assists (6.4) this season.
There are elements of this Spurs team that remain a work in progress. Popovich is piecing together the defense in particular. San Antonio has gotten better in that area, though, tied for the fifth-best efficiency rating since falling three games under .500 on Dec. 5.
If the Spurs continue to play at that level on defense while also getting key contributions from players like Forbes, Belinelli and White, they are going to cause a lot of problems when the postseason comes around.
The Spurs will head back home to the AT&T Center to take on the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET. The Timberwolves will host the Phoenix Suns in the first game of a home-and-home on Sunday at 7 p.m.