I'm getting too old for this...stuff
This is starting to feel like Groundhog's day. Once again, the Timberwolves came out firing, only this time, we kept it close throughout and survived a late burst by them to take home another W.
A rambling recap, after the jump.A little something to get you started:
First Quarter Notes:
Blair came out aggressive- he missed a few shots, but they came from within the offense/on putbacks. Obviously, it would be better if he made it, but we need that from him. He had good form on a hook shot in the lane (but missed badly), and had a floater go all the way down only to get vomited back up. On defense, he over helped once, but mostly played decent.
Duncan was...Duncan. He is what he is, which is who we thought he was. Do I need to say anything else?
Parker and Manu...see above, although neither could buy a bucket.
RJ, off some nice feeds from Manu/Tony/Tim pretty much kept us in the game until the bench came in and took over on offense.
We ran a play on offense for Neal that we used to run for Zombie Mike- long range catch and shoot two while curling off a screen. It worked. I don't think I've seen that yet this year. Bonner did some cool things like dribble and shoot. No dunks, though. Shame. I guess I'm getting spoiled.
Darko has been active, especially on defense. I'm glad Minnesota freed him. This is my first time watching him play this year, and I've got to say that if he had been drafted in the late first round/second round (or maybe even towards the end of the lottery), there is no way he is considered a "bust". IMO, he's a slightly above NBA average center. Franchise player? No way. But he's quality and if you could surround him with a franchise guard and another above average big (like Love), you could win a title with him starting. Maybe Kahn isn't crazy.
Speaking of Love, I think he's starting to get over hyped. Yes, he's a rebounding monster and he's a really good shooter, but his defense is no better than Bonner's. Love hustles and applies himself, but doesnt have the timing or physicality to really bother other post players. I'll put it this way: Blair's post offense is better than Love's post defense. BUT...he is the perfect compliment to Darko.
The Wolves bench consists of Pekovic, another newbie euro import. He's big and physical and isn't that exactly what you want backup bigs to be?
Beasley is hurt, and he's inconsistent, but he's finally starting to reach his potential. I think he ends up somewhere near the Carmelo range- very talented, great scorer, but not physical enough to get enough rebounds to really make him a "franchise" forward. The difference is Beasley appears more athletic.
Manu decided to let the ball go into the basket this time. He hit a couple threes, at least one of which came off a Bonner assist. Then Manu returned the favor. "Bonner and Ginobili- 9 pts each." cued the commercial break and was music to my ears.
At one point, our starters had 15 points, and our bench had 15 points.
Tony decided to live in the paint. Manu kept shooting 3's. Our defense played pretty well. Our bench is the best in the league- period.
George needs to hit that corner 3. I don't know what happened, but the past few games he's either taken it and missed or he's decided to try and drive when he should take it. Shoot it, George, lest you become something other than Pop's favorite player.
Both teams are playing hard. Why won't you just quit, Timberpuppies? They cut the lead down to 3, and DeJuan may have hurt his knee. I don't know what's left in there to hurt, so I'm not sure what's going on- but I personally would be devastated if he's hurt.
Remember how I earlier lamented the lack of a Bonner dunk? Tim just made up for it. He just did a pull up on the rim.
And now Kevin Love might be hurt. For the good of the NBA, Timberpuppies- just forfeit the next game. Neither team needs these kind of injuries.
Tim toying with the triple double, plus a couple blocks. Very nice.
Biggest improvement on the team this year, outside of Tim/Tony/Manu health? Bonner learning how to dribble. I can't count the number of times he's been chased off the 3pt line, put the ball off the floor, and then made a great decision.
For a long stretch of this game, the three best Timberwolves have been Tolliver, Love, and Ridnour. How are they in the game? Love isn't even doing much- it's been all Tolliver and Ridnour. This is crazy.
End of the third, we're up by 7, and with all the mounting injuries at this point I want the game to be over.
Back and forth, up and down, punch-counterpunch, etc etc etc. They just won't go away.
Bonner's got 9...rebounds. Take that, Kevin Love.
Gary Neal is win. So far, he's missed two shots- a free throw and a 3 that he shot out of rhythm.
It's taken me awhile, but I finally figured it out- the reason they are still in the game? Our turnovers. We've turned it over 17 times. That is at least 7 or 8 too many.
Great defense on the last possession- switched every screen and guarded the three point line like a cop guards a Krispy Kreme.
I'd like to say we should have blown these guys out. Some of you may say that. But when I see the Timberwolves play, I don't see a bad team and I definitely don't see a team as bad as their record. Darko/Love/Pekovic/Tolliver is a surprisingly good big rotation (no, seriously, they are). Pekovic/Tolliver are bench versions of Darko/Love- in each combination you've got a bruising defensive big and an athletic do-it-all big that can stretch the floor. That means that if one were to go down with an injury or foul trouble, they could plug the next guy into his spot and barely skip a beat. Brewer is a really good defensive wing- he did a great job tonight of getting under Manu's skin (although he should have known that was a mistake). Like I said before- I'm generally impressed by Beasley although he needs to develop some consistency. I'm willing to cut the kid some slack, though, because this is really his first year in the NBA. The previous years don't count because he was doped up in South Beach. Ridnour is probably their weakest link, and he had a good night tonight.
If Rubio comes over and is half what everyone says he is, they are probably an 8 seed, even in the West. Heck, if they had started the year off better, they'd probably be challenging for it this year.
But enough about them. What do we need to do differently so Tuesday night is not a last possession game?
Mostly, turn the ball over less. Manu was (as usual) the leading culprit, with 1/4 of them by himself. I don't believe in giving free passes for turnovers, or that "he made up for it later". Sorry. There's nothing in his DNA that prevents him from having great games WITHOUT the turnovers- he just tries to do too much sometimes, which is the same thing we all bash guys like Kobe for. The others came mostly early in the game from RJ/Duncan/Tony, which is why they won the first quarter. The turnovers, though, are not the stat of the game- remember when I said we had the best bench in the league? Check the box score- all of their starters had a positive +/-, only Manu did for us. Except for our bench- who all (except for Hill) had positive +/- stats, led by McDyess with a +13.
Hill's 3 point shooting slump has continued. He missed several wide open 3's, and he went 0-4. If he wasn't a perfect 7-7 from the line, I would be very, very disappointed in him. We're going to need him to make his open 3's, though. Put the balance bracelets back on if you have to- we promise we won't say anything this time.
So, to beat them soundly on Tuesday, we have to turn the ball over less and hope more of our open shots go in. Also, Kevin Love is not a good post defender- I'd like to see some screens down low to get their bigs to switch, and have Duncan/Blair/Splitter/McDyess exploit that match up.
Without further ado, your 3 stars:
Honorable Honorable Mention: Matt Bonner, for almost notching a double/double.
Honorable Mention: Tony Parker, for taking the game over at one point to keep us in it.
3. Tim Duncan- for the stat line of 8/8/5/2/2. I'd like to say that he filled it up, but he shot 4-10 and his +/- was -9. He did anchor the defense and anytime a big has 5 assists you know they are doing something right.
2. Gary Neal- He's an iceman, not like the Gervin kind, but like the Mark Wahlberg from "Shooter" kind. There is nowhere on the court he cannot make a shot, and he can make them spotting up or off the dribble. He's not Romaju 2.0, he's Romaju 10.0, bug and glitch free.
1. Manu Ginobili- Played his first good game in like a week. 21/7/3/4 with a +/- of +9. He came through when it counted, but for the love of FSM would you STOP TURNING THE BALL OVER! It drives me crazy- turnovers are second only to lazy defense for basketball pet peeves.