Rehash: Spurs lay an egg in lifeless loss in Minnesota

Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE

I blame Roy Hibbert.

Game 78 @Minnesota: Timberwolves 110, Spurs 91 Rec: 60-18 Won Southwest, 1st in West Streak: L-1

In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell you straight off I only watched the fourth quarter of the Spurs' one-sided loss at Minnesota. First there was a power outage at my place, and even after that got sorted out it turned out that League Pass was set on the wrong channel anyway. So, as omens go, there's that.

Really though, I should've known better. We all should've known better. I remember talking to Dale (your faithful editor J.R. Wilco, who continues to do an outstanding job with those vine highlight clips on Twitter game after game) after the originally scheduled game "at" Minnesota in Mexico got smoked out last December 4th that the generator fire turned a win into a loss, and even he, as optimistic as he is, glumly agreed. We both figured the league would reschedule the game in some dastardly fashion, engineering some ad hoc SEGABABA or perhaps an isolated one-game road trip that would prompt Gregg Popovich to keep his main guns home because surely he wouldn't make them fly up there to freeze their buns off for a single roadie in late in the season, right? (Whoops.)

Once they announced the actual makeup date though, tucked nicely into what was an unusual three days off pocket of the schedule and prior to another road game at Dallas, well all of a sudden a win seemed far more likely than we once fathomed, especially since A) the Spurs were on such a roll these past two months and B) they were likely to send their full squad north of the wall. I admit, I got cocky and ticketed the game as a likely win, figuring the Wolves would be shutting it down mentally since they were eliminated from the postseason and banking on the Spurs' dominant record against non-elite competition.

Silly me, I forgot that this is Minnesota we're talking about. The Spurs always struggle at Minnesota. And playing them without Tony Parker? What was I thinking? The last time the Spurs visited the Target Center Ricky Rubio probably had the best game of his career. He basically turns into the guy he was drafted to be, instead of, you know, one of the worst shooters in NBA history. (Though according to a couple of folks he's been pretty good even without being able to shoot.)

Besides, the Timberwolves aren't even bad. They can't close out a game to save their lives and they're dreadfully coached, but they're not bad. Their plus-3.3 scoring differential is not only better than all but two Eastern Conference teams but also superior to the Dallas-Memphis-Phoenix trio fighting for the last two playoff spots out West, and all those teams have between 45-48 wins already. The Wolves are 39-38. I mean, it's not that much of a stretch at all to suggest that they're objectively the best team the Spurs will face in this Grizzlies-at Wolves-at Mavs-Suns clump in the schedule. They certainly have the best player of any of those teams in Kevin Love, though he *only* had a 19-14-4 in 33 minutes Tuesday night.

The Spurs were zombies for the first three quarters from what I gather, with no energy or focus at all, and perhaps they too got swept up with all the potential first-round opponents sandwiching poor irrelevant Minnesota and just forgot to hit the snooze alarm for this one. I guess they can be excused, since they already cashed a few house money road wins already lately at Golden State, Denver and Indiana. Both they and the Thunder are 2-2 in their last four games, if you want to look at it another way.

The Spurs next game is at Dallas, a team they haven't lost to since 2012. The Thunder's next game is at the Clippers, a team fighting them tooth and nail for the second seed. It's a nice spot to be in.

The 1995-96 Bulls team that went 70-12 lost games at Denver (35-47), at Phoenix (41-41), at Miami (42-40), at Toronto (21-61) and at Charlotte (41-41). Both Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen played at least 39 minutes in each of those losses, for some perspective. I'm not equating the current Spurs to those Bulls. I'm just saying there are worse losses than at Minnesota without Parker. The Spurs' likely opponents in the final two rounds of the upcoming playoffs Oklahoma City and Miami, should they advance that far, lost to these dudes as well.

The Spurs got blown out up there last year as well late in the season. That worked out okay.

(Seriously though, I never want to see Manu Ginobili play these guys again. (Come on.)

Standard Pop Quote:

"The Timberwolves played great. ... They basically forced us to lay an egg. We were awful. And a lot of if was because of their aggressiveness. They played great D. They have great pace on offense. And they beat us in every facet of the game."

It hasn't been a good couple of days for the Spurs and facets.

/sorry

/is not sorry

By the Numbers:

2: The Spurs magic number to clinch home court advantage over Oklahoma City, with four games remaining. That's it, nothing else matters.

Sequence of the Game:

Probably where some random for the T-Pups got a brick off the front of the rim to bounce off the backboard and then gently through the net for a three-pointer to abort a Spurs comeback, followed by a lame charging call on Danny Green to negate a Leonard alley-oop, followed by another Wolves who-dat bouncing another three, this time from the wing off the side of the rim and in. That kind of night.

Tweets of the Night:

HAWT

Is that an indictment on the Spurs or the Wolves? Yes.

Well it would've been, had Duncan given a damn.

I'm a Spurs fan, that's as secretive as it gets. I do eat McDonald's cheeseburgers, sadly.

Why not Rick Adelman for Coach of the Year?

Probably a worse deal for him, since he's stuck with it 24-7-365.

None that JRW will let me print.

Spurs at Minnesota in April.

Random Observation:

I wonder how many pundits are going to be talking Wednesday morning about how the Brooklyn Nets owning the Miami Heat to the point where a playoff series between the two shouldn't even be played because it would just be a formality. I mean obviously the Heat have very real problems against their length and athleticism, right? That LeBron James looks downright old and feeble against the beastly Mason Plumlee.

Your Three Stars:

3. Cory Joseph (18 pts): Pop went to the Patty Mills well early when the Spurs fell behind and for once it didn't work out. Joseph provided good energy in the fourth quarter in a lost cause.

2. Jeff Ayres (5 pts): Ayres deserves a nod, he's been solid of late in Aron Baynes' absence. I still don't want to see him in any competitive playoff situation though.

1. Kawhi Leonard (81 pts): Not to go all Simmons on you, but a few minutes there where both teams were playing with their scrubs in the fourth quarter, Leonard looked like Michael J. Fox in "Teen Wolf." Third time this season we had a Spur take the top spot in the YTS podium for three straight games, with Leonard joining Duncan who did it at Orlando, vs. Houston and vs. Atlanta from Nov. 29-Dec. 2 and Parker who did it vs. Minnesota, at New Orleans and vs. Utah from Jan. 12-Jan. 15.

Up Next: @Dallas Mavericks (47-31), Thursday, Apr. 10: The Spurs will look to right themselves --and possibly lock up home court advantage should the Thunder lose at the Clippers on Wednesday-- at Dallas, against a club they've beaten seven straight times in the Mavericks. The last time they lost to Dirk Nowitzki and co., Leonard was a rookie. However, this game figures to be the toughest test against them in a while because not only will Parker be out, but Ginobili might be too and the Mavs are still fighting hard to just make the playoffs. They're seventh in the standings now, a half game up on Phoenix and 1.5 games ahead of Memphis in ninth. In a perfect world I'd prefer them to finish eighth and the Suns seventh, giving the Thunder all they can handle. The Spurs won 112-106 at home on March 2nd, back when their franchise-record 19 game winning streak was just three games in. They had six in double figures in that one, led by Parker's 22. It's not going to be easy, but the worst thing for the Mavericks had to be seeing the Spurs get waxed so badly up at Minnesota. They're gonna get up for this one after Pop lays into them.

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