AT&T CENTER – Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love will most likely be the one who receives a lot of publicity for scoring 42 points, grabbing 14 rebounds, making 8-fo-9 three pointers, and scoring more than the entire San Antonio Spurs team in the third quarter (19-18) Friday, but off in the distance was 36-year old Manu Ginobili turning in a vintage performance as he helped the Spurs top Minnesota 117-110.
“Yeah, I thought Ginobili was very good,” said Wolves head coach Rick Adelman after the game. “He really hurt us. Parker was great the whole game, but Ginobili really hurt us that fourth quarter.”
How exactly did Ginobili hurt the Wolves? By turning the clock back to his All-Star days in which he scored 16 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. As Adelman mentioned, Ginobili’s teammate Parker also had a great game as he scored 12 of his season high 29 points in the fourth too.
Though the Spurs came in ranked as the second best defensive rated team in the NBA, a matchup with the Wolves was a test for their offense as the game had four straight 30-plus point quarters from either squad.
In the first, both teams showed little to no defense as the Wolves held a 30-27 lead. In the second quarter though, the Spurs’ offense exploded for 35 points while their defense held the Wolves to 24 points. Going into the half, Parker already had 15 points and Boris Diaw was working with 12 points. For the Wolves, Love went into the half with 16 points and Nikola Pekovic had 10 points.
And then came the third quarter, or as it might be called, the ‘Love Storm.’
In the third, Kevin Love shot an unconscious 5-of-6 from 3-point range for 19 points. Kawhi Leonard had a quick 11 points to start the quarter for the Spurs on his way to his season high 19 points. But Love and the Wolves torched San Antonio with 35 points in the quarter, as the Spurs were outscored by Love alone in the third 19-18.
“He’s a great player,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich after the game of Love. “When you play inside and outside the way he does, he’s a tough cover.”
“I think we could have done a better job, I thought we made some fundamental errors in guarding him, but be that as it may, he’s a monster.”
Though they headed into the fourth quarter down 89-80, the Spurs had one more element they were going to rely on, their bench and a closing quarter for Parker and Ginobili.
Along with Ginobili’s 20 points and nine assists, the Spurs’ bench outscored the Wolves 57-12 on the night. According to Coach Adelman, the Spurs’ depth in the end was a key factor as the Wolves just couldn’t sustain enough energy for 48 minutes.
“They’re very good,” said Adelman of the Spurs’ bench. “Most of them have been there for a couple of years. They know what they’re doing. We just didn’t have enough at the end there.”
After showing his versatility as a defensive weapon in the NBA Finals last year as he effectively defended Miami Heat forward LeBron James for stretches, Diaw showed his defensive versatility Friday when it mattered most, the fourth quarter.
Love had scored seven points in the first half of the fourth, but then Diaw clamped down on him from the 6:07 mark and beyond as the Spurs changed their defensive game plan and finally found a solution that worked to hold Love scoreless for the remainder of the game.
“They weren’t leaving him,” said Coach Adelman of the Spurs’ defensive late on Love in the fourth. “They relaxed and they were playing pick-and-rolls a certain way. Then they switched. They didn’t let him catch the ball. We had our opportunities because of that. We missed two or three at the basket and when the game was on the line.”
“He was making a lot of threes,” said Parker of Love, “and we tried to change our defense. In the fourth quarter we finally found one that worked.”
Numbers galore vs. Wolves
When playing a team like the Wolves, that play at such a fast pace, the numbers after games can look glamourizing. That was the case from the box score on Friday. Here’s a few statistical nuggets that could only happen in an offensive shootout between two teams that score more than 110 points in a regulation game.
· The Spurs passed for 32 assists and assisted on 67% of their made baskets.
· When combing both rosters, 10 players finished with 10 or more points in the game.
· Tim Duncan was two assists shy of a triple double as he scored 12 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and threw 8 assists. Duncan also had 3 blocks and 2 steals.
· Along with his 19 points, Kawhi Leonard also grabbed 6 rebounds, threw 5 assists, had 2 steals, and 1 block.
· Marco Belinelli scored a quiet 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting off the bench.
· The Spurs outscored the Wolves 62-36 in the paint, while the Wolves outscored the Spurs 27-22 on the fast-break.
With the win, the Spurs moved to 18-4 on the season. They’ll have a back-to-back in Utah against the Jazz on Saturday in Salt Lake City.