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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