For the first time in twelve years--the Minnesota Timberwolves took down the San Antonio Spurs for back-to-back wins in the same season!
The Wolves found themselves down 8 early, but battled back and kept it close through three quarters. Heading into the fourth--the Wolves were tied at 64 with the Spurs. It was a back-and-forth affair in the first 9 minutes of the fourth, but in those final three minutes the Wolves went on a 10-0 run to end the game that sealed the Wolves' ninth win on the year.
Minnesota got some production from some unexpected places. The most notably being Nikola Pekovic. Pek started in place of Darko Milicic at center who wasn't feeling well and didn't play at all in this one. If Pek didn't validate his ability to be the Wolves' starting center tonight--then I don't think he ever will. Nikola scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his second double-double of his career in 33 minutes of play time. I think we can both agree the likes of Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair are no chumps, but Nikola just outdid them both tonight. Watching Blair play in the past there aren't too many players that can move his 'mass'--excluding of course the 6-11, 290lb. Pekovic who bounced him around like a ragdoll!
This game also marked the return and debut of two more TWolves players. Michael Beasley finally returned after missing 11 consecutive games with a mid-foot sprain he suffered in the first week of January--in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Beasley played 22 minutes off the bench and had 7pts, 4rebs, 2ast, 1to on 3-of-11 shooting from the field. He still seemed to be forcing his shot too much, like before he stops the ball and tries to isolate--something that hopefully won't fly with Rubio--who'll make him move the ball--or he won't pass Beas the ball! It's good Beasley can create his own shot, but he needs to do so--more in flow with the offense. Another player coming off the bench was Martell Webster who made his 2011-12 NBA season debut. He's been out as he recovers from offseason back surgery on a herniated disc. He played just six minutes in the game tonight, but had a three-pointer, grabbed two rebounds and shot 33% from the field. He'll certainly be getting more time as the season presses on.
There were two other players who were available for tonight's game who didn't play: Anthony Tolliver & Brad Miller. Brad Miller would've/could've made his debut tonight, but didn't get in the game despite Minnesota having just one healthy center on the roster (Pek). I'm not sure why Tolliver didn't play, however. I'd assume it would have something to do with an injury--possibly that sore wrist that was bothering him earlier in the week...but, I don't see Adelman deciding not to play him.
Let's take a look at some of tonight's individual statistics from some key players of each team...
The Minnesota Timberwolves got great production from their two best players: Love & Rubio. Hopefully that's something we'll get to say game-in-and-game-out for years to come. Both had 18pts, Love did his thing on the boards, Rubio dropped his dimes, both limited turnovers and shot high percentages in big chunks of playing time. We talked about Pek before, so I'll take this space to further campaign the big guy for the starting center spot!
For the Spurs, without Manu Ginboli they've relied heavily on Tony Parker. TP had a solid game, but I was pretty shocked to see him finish with just 3 assists--but then I remembered--he's having to do the majority of the scoring for the team and he doesn't have Manu to dump it off to for the easy dime. Duncan shot a horrendous percentage, however he crashed the boards, dished to teammates and blocked 4 shots--getting older, but still can do a lot on the court. Tiago is looking better every game I see him. He basically did all the things Duncan did, slightly fewer boards and blocks, but more points on a higher shooting percentage on less minutes. Richard Jefferson also contributed 10 points--that all came in the first quarter--after that he disappeared...
Let's look at a team comparison of statistics from tonight's game...
Wait a minute...let me get this straight. The Wolves shot 22% from deep, but committed just 10 turnovers (a season-low) 8 of which came in the first half alone--allowed just 8 Spurs points of those turnovers--locked down on defense in the final minutes when it mattered most--AND walked away with an 8-point win over the Spurs? This doesn't sound like any TWolves team I've known, the past five years...and I love that!
The TWolves hammered the Spurs in the paint with a +34, the beat them on the boards with a +12. The Wolves obviously shied away from taking threes and looked to take it inside against the likes of Duncan, Blair, Bonner & Splitter. That alone explains the Spurs' 8 blocks. Starting Pekovic and playing him 33 minutes also explains a big part of the Timberwolves' success in the paint. As long as we're on the subject of Pekovic--I'll take this time to throw my support to the big man for the starting center position.
For the Spurs, they shot higher percentages from deep and from the line, but it was their inability to keep Minnesota out of the paint and off the boards. They were also forced into 12 turnovers and allowed 14 points off them. They did get a lift from their bench who contributed almost half of the team's points tonight.
That's what I've got for now. I'll be putting up the game pictures and updating our stats section tonight. We'll have some videos, quotes & a Lakers gameday preview up tomorrow, so stay tuned for that! Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!