The game will be made up in Minnesota at a later date.
The arena was evacuated about 45 minutes before the scheduled 9:30 p.m. EST tipoff when a generator malfunction outside the arena sent smoke pouring into the building, according to NBA spokeswoman Sharon Lima.
Mexico City Police said in a statement there was a fire in the generator room on the fourth floor of the modern glass-clad arena that opened in 2012.
“What happened was provoked by a short circuit in the room of generators,” the statement said in Spanish.
About 15 minutes after the scheduled start, the Spurs bus pulled away from the building. The Timberwolves bus followed soon after.
While the teams were warming up for their regular-season matchup, lights went out in parts of the arena and smoke began coming out of vents in the upper deck. The court quickly became cloudy.
“I thought they were practicing fireworks, Spurs TV analyst Sean Elliot said. “A lot of teams do that before introductions. But then the smoke just kept creeping and it wasn’t white smoke. It was like a brown dark smoke and it started taking over the whole court. It was surprising.”
Fans had not yet been allowed into the arena for the NBA’s first regular-season game in the country since Houston and Dallas played in Mexico City on Dec. 6, 1997, when the evacuation was ordered. The teams went to their buses, still wearing their practice gear.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said there was a lot of smoke in their locker room.
Standing outside the Timberwolves’ bus in shorts and his practice shirt, guard Ricky Rubio had no idea what happened.
“They just told us to leave,” Rubio said in Spanish.
Both teams were scheduled to leave Mexico right after the game and they are both off until Saturday.