After a hard fought win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the San Antonio Spurs got on a plane to travel to the Target Center to play against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With the second of a back-to-back, the first half for San Antonio wasn't surprising.
The team came out flat in the first half and only scoring 38 points in the first two quarters compared to Minnesota's 53 points. The Spurs only scored 10 points in the second quarter, which helped their opponents gain a 15 point lead at halftime. Stephen Jackson led the team with 13 points (5-7 FG, 3-4 3FG). Tiago Splitter led the team with 8 rebounds in 14 minutes at halftime also. While their contributions in two quarters seems like a good stat line, there wasn't enough from the rest of the players to make up for Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan missing the game due to knee issues.
The second half wasn't much prettier either.
The Spurs scored 22 points to Minny's 24 in the third quarter, but couldn't seem to play any defense the whole night to pull closer. Gregg Popovich seemed to have waived the white flag in this game during the 9:45 mark of the 4th quarter when Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter sat out the rest of the game while Aron Baynes got a few minutes to learn more on the go with his teammates. Ricky Rubio had a career night tonight with a triple double: 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists. The final score of the game was 107-83 with the Wolves embarrassing the Spurs in Minnesota.
Five points to take from this game:
1) The Spurs seemed flat from tip off. After a game where they used up energy against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a possible Western Conference Finals preview. The team may have blown out the Thunder late in the game, but they had to travel after that game to visit Minnesota then will travel back home for the next game.
2) Stephen Jackson shows he can still play a huge role alongside non-superstars and still make a huge impact. He contributed 14 points (5-10 FG) and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes. He was just +3 on the court, but that was mostly due to the fact the team as a whole couldn't stop the Timberwolves from making their shots.
3) Cory Joseph had his first real test against one of the top tier point guards who is a pass first player. Rubio's quickness was troubling for Joseph, but Ricky Rubio also shot well (7-14 FG) which is something he has not been known for this season.
4) Matt Bonner may be a serviceable backup big man, but the defense really suffers when he's playing against starters in the league. With Tim Duncan sitting, this saw Splitter move to the strong side help while Bonner was relegated as the weak side big man. His inability to help out and successfully contest shots cost the Spurs some baskets. Bonner starting was Pop's way of balancing the starting lineup since no other big can balance the frontcourt with Tiago without Duncan. Diaw was kept on the bench to balance the roster since the Spurs would've been in the same situation of a bad defensive duo with a Bonner/Blair.
5) Without Tim Duncan's handful of post ups or Kawhi Leonard cutting to the basket or creating off the dribble, the Spurs are strictly relegated to being a three point shooting team. The offensive balance between shooting and driving was shown tonight and the value of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Kawhi Leonard grew as the night went on.
Spurs fans shouldn't be troubled with this loss in the end.
The Wolves come out fresh while the Spurs came out tired without their two starting forwards for the game. There was no main defensive presence on the defensive end in the perimeter (Leonard) or in the paint (Duncan) and their worth to the team showed in this game. This loss is similar to the 30 point loss to the Portland Trailblazers but, as we saw, the team answered back the next game.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are not a playoff contender like the Blazers, which is probably why the Wolves come out with a "spoiler" mentality tonight and that helped them make all their shots confidently.
The Spurs will next face the Mavericks in San Antonio this Thursday.