The Minnesota Timberwolves came into this one without four of their five best players (Kevin Love, Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic & Chase Budinger). The San Antonio Spurs came into this one without three of their four best players (Tony Parker, Tim Duncan & Kawhi Leonard).
Despite being without three of their starters, I had a strong feeling that the Spurs were going to roll by the Wolves in this one.
I watched part of the first quarter and saw that the Spurs were up 10 and basically thought it was the beginning of the end. I had to step away for the next hour or so and missed the rest of the first quarter, the second quarter and all but the final minutes of the third quarter. When I got home and turned on the TV, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The Wolves were absolutely dominating the Spurs (and at that point were up by 20).
This was the first Wolves game I've missed in probably three months and maybe I should miss games more often! I'm just upset I didn't get to see the second quarter, because it was apparently (from what I've heard) a good one! The Wolves scored 29 points in the second quarter, while holding the Spurs to just 10. With that, they built a demanding 53-38 lead. Had I been watching, I would've assumed a big letdown in the third quarter. The two teams played near even at 22-24 Wolves.
A fourth quarter letdown? Nope! Not tonight!
This is a great win for a group of guys who have really been battling this past month. I think a big key to that is the leadership of Ricky Rubio. There's no question that Ricky's passion for the game oozes out and infects the rest of his team. You rarely see him hang his head and if he does it's for a brief moment, he then promptly locks down a defender on D, gets a steal, finds a teammate for an easy bucket or drives to the rack for a fancy layup. He's always making plays and playing at 100%. That makes this game even sweeter. Not only did they beat the best team in the Western Conference (no I don't care they were without three of their starters...so are we!) but Ricky also got his first career triple-double after flirting with it for the past few weeks.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers...
Ricky finished with his first of likely many triple-doubles in his NBA career. Like I said, I only saw part of the first quarter and the last 14 minutes (or so) of the game, but from the small parts of the game I did see, he was definitely fun to watch. He achieved his first NBA career triple-double in just 29 minutes of action, grabbing his 10th rebound with roughly 9:14 to go in the fourth quarter.
Barea & Shved led a bench unit that was very impressive. I saw J.J. hit three triples in the final minutes of this game, while Shved (hopefully) took a leap over the cursed Rookie Wall with this 16-point, 7-assist night. He said after the game, that he hopes he's back. Let's hope this can be a stepping stone for more consistent performances going forward.
In the first few minutes I watched, Cory Joseph had a couple of easy layups and he ended up finishing with a team-high 15 points. He continues to fill in for Tony Parker and while he's certainly no Tony, the Spurs will be just fine going forward once Duncan & Leonard return.
Without Parker, Duncan or Leonard, the Spurs desperately needed production from Jackson, Splitter, Green, Diaw & Ginobli. Jackson started for the injured Leonard and finished with 14pts on 5-of-10 shooting and was the best of this group, however after him it gets 'pretty rough'. Splitter is a MIP candidate this season, but this was not a good game for the third-year big man. Tiago finished with 4pts on just 1-of-10 shooting, he did grab 11 rebounds and added 1steal in 22 minutes. But he definitely had an off shooting night. Danny Green torched the Wolves for a career-high 28 points in these two teams' previous meeting, however tonight he had just 10pts on 40% FG (4-10). Boris Diaw was equally awful on offense. He contributed just 6pts on 3-of-11 shooting, including 0-for-4 from deep. And lastly, Manu Ginobli, Manu follows in the footsteps of most of his Spurs' comrades tonight. Ginobli finished with just 7pts on 20% FG (2-10) and 0-for-4 from deep!
It's understandable that the Spurs were shorthanded and playing in the second game of a back-to-back, however you aren't going to get a whole lot of sympathy from this Minnesota Timberwolves squad. A TWolves team that is playing with just nine healthy players, without 3 of their starters and 4 of their 5 best players. A TWolves squad that has been decimated by injuries that has turned a once very hopeful season into yet another lotto-bound, cellar-dwelling year. This was a much needed win for the TWolves in yet another miserable season in Minnesota.
You shoot the ball well, you win basketball games. You play good defense, you win ball games. You do both and you blow teams out. Tonight the Wolves did both. Despite going 7-of-18 from the line, leaving 11 points there, they still finished with 107 points after going eight straight games without breaking the century mark. They held the Spurs to shooting percentages in the thirties, which is particularly good considering how well San Antonio shot from deep in the previous meetings this season. The Wolves also held a +10 on the boards and tied a season-high with their 30 assists. They also turned the ball over 16 times, but got back on D and didn't let the Spurs convert many of those chances. Conversely, the Spurs were forced into 17 turnovers that led to 30 Minnesota points. The Wolves also got 48 points from their four players off the bench. Minnesota's 53.7% FG is the second-best shooting percentage from the field for this team this season and the 60% from downtown is tops in 2012-13. Despite their deficiencies at the free-throw line, this was a very impressive Timberwolves team tonight!
The Wolves are already on a plane heading to Indianapolis to face the Pacers on Wednesday. That one will tip at 6pmCT and we'll have a full gameday preview up before then! As always thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!