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Jim Souhan

Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene

Souhan: What happened to Teague in the 4th quarter?

San Antonio -- That the Timberwolves would play poorly with a new lineup and a short preseason and against a great coach isn't as surprising as a few other developments in the Wolves' opener on Wednesday night.

1. Tyus Jones played almost as much as starting point guard Jeff Teague - 23:06 to 24:54. And Jones ran the team down the stretch in a close game on the road, which would seem to be what you would want the veteran point guard to do.

After trading Ricky Rubio and signing Teague to a three-year contract, you would expect Teague to run the offense in crunch time. But Tom Thibodeau said he liked the way Jones ran the team as the Wolves made a run early in the fourth period, so he stuck with him.

2. Jimmy Butler is listed as a starting guard but is big and strong enough to play small forward. Wednesday night, Thibodeau tried a small lineup at times featuring Butler at power forward. ``I liked that lineup,'' Thibodeau said. Butler said he didn't care what position he played as long as he was on the floor and the team had a chance to win.

3. Nemanja Bjelica outplayed Shabazz Muhammad as a bench scorer, and all-around player. Muhammad looked sleepy. He even got surprised by a Jones pass while standing open at the three-point line, almost fumbling the ball away.

Muhammad played 14 minutes and produced two points on 1-of-6 shooting. Bjelica played 13 minutes, producing nine points and making a three-pointer.

4. Andrew Wiggins went 4-for-6 from the three-point line. Taj Gibson, who had displayed an improved shot from long range during the preseason, went 0-for-2 on threes and 3-for-11 overall. He also produced just four rebounds in 27 minutes while looking a step behind against the Spurs' big men.

5. Jamal Crawford was one of the Wolves' most efficient players. in 24 minutes he produced 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting and had five assists and three rebounds.

Overall, it was an ugly game. The Wolves frequently fumbled the ball, and sometimes looked at each other as if they aren't up to speed on their offensive and defensive schemes.

That probably is to be expected, but losing to a Spurs team lacking Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker has to be disappointing to Thibodeau. The Spurs are exactly the kind of team the Wolves are trying to pass in the Western Conference hierarchy. The problem is, the Spurs are stilled coached by Gregg Popovich.

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You can find our Wolves show on MNSPN.com and The Mix Sports Facebook page with Jon Krawczynski. We also have my show, Roy Smalley on baseball, VikingUpdate publisher Tim Yotter on the Vikings, John Millea on preps and Michael Russo on hockey.

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Souhan: Timberwolves should win close to 50 games

San Antonio -- Jerry Zgoda and I will cover the Timberwolves' opener tonight in San Antonio. We just finished with shootaround interviews, and I was struck by how uncertain everyone is about how this team will play together.

Not uncertain in a bad way, not anxious, but curious about the unknown.

Who will take big shots? Probably Jimmy Butler, but wouldn't you want Karl-Anthony Towns to touch the ball on every important position? If you need two points, wouldn't you want Andrew Wiggins to be involved?

How quickly can new players become acclimated to one another while playing under increased expectations?

Perhaps most to the point, what are the proper expectations for this team?

I think this is the best roster the Wolves have ever had. But they also play in one of the toughest conferences in sports, and are trying to meld veteran newcomers with young players still learning the league.

Last year, the Wolves were expected to win 40-plus games. They won 31. It was a brutal season given the level of talent and the expected coaching expertise.

Can this year's team really be expected to win 15 or 20 more games?

I think it should. Jimmy Butler is the ideal fit for this roster. Taj Gibson brings toughness, rebounding, defense and experience. Towns and Wiggins have another year of experience.

I think this team should be able to win close to 50 games. Let's set the over-under at 48, and see if the Wolves, for the first time in 14 years, can provide a pleasant surprise.

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You can find our season preview at MNSPN.com with Jon Krawczynski, as well as shows with VikingUpdate publisher Tim Yotter, Michael Russo, Roy Smalley, John MIllea and my show, SouhanUncensored. You can also find the shows at The Mix Sports Radio Facebook page.

@Souhanstrib