Scouting the Timberwolves: Spurs’ backcourt might be too much for Rubio-less Wolves

The San Antonio Spurs (29-14) return home from a split road trip as they host the Minnesota Timberwolves in the last matchup of the regularKL season between the two teams.

Much has changed since these two teams met back in late January. Rookie sensation Ricky Rubio went down with a season ending injury, and the Spurs made a few roster moves as Richard Jefferson was traded to Golden State for Stephen Jackson.

Jackson in particular will be making his return to the AT&T Center while the Spurs will also be celebrating the retiring ceremony of Bruce Bowen’s jersey.

The Timberwolves are fighting to stay in reach of a playoff position, and that was evident as they defeated the Golden State Warriors on the road Monday evening.

Case No. 44: Minnesota Timberwolves (23-24)

Road record: 11-12. Last 10 games: 5-5

Series Leader: Minnesota 2-0

The King

Kevin Love – 25.9 points, 13.7 rebounds, 19.1 FGA (45%), 4.9 3PT FGA (37%) 8.5 FTA (82%)

Love has been a major problem for the Spurs this season as he is averaging 21 points and 15.5 rebounds per game against San Antonio. He’s also coming off a 36-point performance against the Warriors on Monday, and the Spurs’ big men struggled defending Dirk Nowitzki on Saturday. DeJuan Blair in particular, struggled with Nowitzki and it was interesting to see Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard show some production when defending Nowitzki. If Love begins to dominate, then head coach Gregg Popovich might use that method once more.

The Knights

Nikola Pekovic – 13.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 9.5 FGA (57%)

Pekovic was a major issue for the Spurs back in January. His numbers increased (14 points, 10 rebounds), especially on the boards, when he faced the Spurs. Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter have been showing a lot more progression as the season has continued, especially Duncan after two days of rest, so the big man battle will be very key in this game.

Michael Beasley – 11.7 points, 10.6 FGA (45%)

As Bowen has his jersey retired, the game will feature Leonard, who is built in the mold of Bowen, so Beasley will once again have to try and free himself from the young poised rookie.

Luke Ridnour – 11.6 points, 1 steals, 9.9 FGA (45%), 2.9 3PT FGA (33%)

If there’s one thing the Spurs need to be concerned with in defending Ridnour, it’s limiting his three point attempts. Ridnour is shooting 67% against the Spurs and his big three’s late in games were major reasons why the Wolves defeated the Spurs. Of course, Ridnour will really have to step up his effort, because most of those open threes were created with Rubio’s creative passing ability. Ridnour also has to defend Tony Parker, who has been rolling week by week.

The Bishops NP

J.J. Barea – 8.7 points, 8 FGA (37%)

Barea has yet to face the Spurs in a Timberwolves jersey this season, but he can get hot quick and the Spurs know full well of his potential from his rivalry days when he was part of the Dallas Mavericks. Also, I’ll most likely tweet “garden gnome” a few times during the game.

Derrick Williams – 8.7 points, 5 rebounds, 7 FGA (45%)

Williams is showing good production versus the Spurs this season, but like Beasley, he’ll have to get through Leonard and Jackson to reach his 9.5-point average against San Antonio.

The Pawns

  • Martell Webster – 6.7 points, 5.1 FGA (44%)
  • Wes Johnson – 6.1 points, 6.4 FGA (39%)
  • Anthony Randolph – 6 points, 4.8 FGA (50%)

Offense vs. Offense

  • 1. Points: Spurs (100.8) – Timberwolves (98.2) = Spurs
  • 2. Assists: Spurs (22.3) – Timberwolves (19.4) = Spurs
  • 3. Shooting percentage: Spurs (46.7%) – Timberwolves (43.6%) = Spurs
  • 4. Three point shooting percentage: Spurs (40.1%) – Timberwolves (33.7%) = Spurs
  • 5. Free throw attempts: Spurs (21.9) – Timberwolves (25.9) = Timberwolves
  • 6. Turnovers: Spurs (12.9) – Timberwolves (15.2) = Spurs

Offensive Leader: Spurs 5-1

Based on numbers, the Spurs hold the advantage on offense. But, those numbers are skewed as most of those Timberwolves’ numbers were heavily influenced by Rubio’s play. The shots he created for teammates and the effect he had on their offense cannot be put into a statistical category, losing Rubio is a major hit to the franchise this season.

Defense vs. Defense

  • 1. Opponent scoring: Spurs (96.8) – Timberwolves (97.7) = Spurs
  • 2. Opponent shooting: Spurs (45%) – Timberwolves (45%) = Tie
  • 3. Rebounds: Spurs (41.8) – Timberwolves (44.7) = Timberwolves
  • 4. Personal Fouls: Spurs (17.3) – Timberwolves (18.9) = Spurs

Defensive Leader: Spurs 2-1

The rebounds will be the main concern for the Spurs as the Timberwolves just gobble them up against San Antonio. It’s not like Love and Pekovic are the tallest big men in the league, but they have a knack for knowing where the ball is going to land.

Game Expectation

With Rubio, the Timberwolves presented a tough matchup for San Antonio, but without him it seems the Spurs have too much power in their backcourt and wing positions for the Wolves to handle.

Love and Pekovic will most likely continue to dominate the frontline, but the Spurs’ arsenal of Parker, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Gary Neal, Leonard, and Jackson look to be too much.

Throw in the fact that Duncan averages 17 points off two days rest, then the Spurs’ frontline might not be so mismatched. If the Spurs take care of the ball, put pressure on Minnesota to keep up with them offensively, and limit Love and Pekovic to the best of their ability, the Spurs should be closing Bowen’s jersey ceremony with a victory.

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.

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