There are games during the regular season that help us as to viewers understand the team better, to take away something about the state of affairs. Those are usually the same games that help the team grow by presenting challenges or allowing for experimentation. This was not one of those game. The Spurs went into Minnesota with one goal and one goal only: to get an expected win against an inferior team that also happened to be depleted by injuries. And they did that without having to play their starters heavy minutes. So even though there was no drama in this one, we can call it a success.
The Wolves started Mo Williams, Andrew Wiggins, Corey Brewer, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng because three of their regular starters are out with injuries (Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin) and Thaddeus Young was back home for his mother's funeral. They basically had only one guy that can create for himself and they were going against one of the best defenses in the league. It looked like they were going to be lucky to score 40 first half points. But the young Wolves were surprisingly competent on that end, relying on notorious Spurs killer Mo Williams to do the heavy lifting and being opportunistic by turning Spurs turnovers into points.
With the home team scoring at a decent clip, the Spurs' offense, which has sputtered out of the gate, would have to step up. Luckily, two things happened in the first half that haven't happened much so far in this season: Tony Parker decided to drive to the rim on every chance he got and the threes started falling. That combination was enough for the Spurs to lead after one, 29-26.
As the second quarter started the Wolves actually struck first and after a couple of quick buckets took the lead. But it would only last a few seconds and would be the last time they would be ahead on Friday night. Ginobili created a couple of shots for the Spurs' bench unit while the Wolves' couldn't get going. As the starters returned, Tony Parker picked up where he had left off and Danny Green found his outside stroke. After back to back threes the lead reached double digits and would be stretched to 17 before some complacent play led the energetic Wolves back in it.
Fortunately the Spurs woke up soon enough to crush any hope Minnesota had of keeping this a close game. San Antonio closed the first half with a Parker three pointer to get the lead back to 11 and started the second half on a 13-2 run to secure a 22 point lead. It was over after that. That 121-92 final score accurately represents the difference between the two teams in this game.
But there was still a quarter and a half to go. Now, there are two types of blowout games: the fun and the tedious. For a while it seemed like this would be a fun one. The Wolves started force-feeding Andrew Wiggins for ISOs in the third quarter and the former number one pick showed why some believe he could be a star by scoring four times in a row, including two times on Kawhi Leonard. Leonard was also getting touches, so it was a good duel. But unfortunately that was the last bit of fun the game offered. The Wolves stopped playing defense and the lead kept ballooning as the Spurs got open three-pointer after open three-pointer. Not even Pop trotting out an amorphous lineup with no point guard for almost the entire fourth quarter was enough to make this walloping worth watching until the end.
And that's OK, at least for Spurs fans. The season is long and games like these help preserve the legs of the Big Three, none of which played over 25 minutes. We'd trade some entertainment value for that.
- Cory Joseph rolled his ankle in the second quarter. He went to the locker but returned to the game so it doesn't seem too serious. He didn't return for the second half but it might have been a precautionary measure.
- Marco Belinelli returned to action and looked good. But in the third quarter he checked out and went straight to the locker room. He eventually went back to the bench but didn't see more action. Hopefully it was also precautionary.
- Tony Parker is a three point shooter now, apparently. He went 3-3 in this game and is now shooting 13-19 for the season. The rate at which he is hitting them is clearly not sustainable but his shot looks great to me. We'll have to wait and see.
- I feel bad for Danny Green. Since Marco Belinelli was held out, Green ended up playing 36 minutes and having to endure the entirety of garbage time.It makes sense for him and not Manu or Kawhi to be out there. But it was still strange to see a key guy play so much on an already decided game.
- Garbage time MVP: Austin Daye. I was going to give the award to Aron Baynes (10 points, three rebounds, one assist in the fourth quarter) but Bangers didn't look bad when the game was still tight. Daye, on the other hand, was bricking shots at an alarming rate (1-6 from the field, 0-2 from outside) before the fourth, then went 3-4 from three. All kidding aside, Daye was good on the boards and finished with a double-double. If his shot has in fact returned, there might be hope for him.
- I feel for Wolves fans, who are probably tired of being in a constant rebuilding cycle and keep losing players to injury. But there's definitely light at the end of the tunnel. If they can get a top draft pick and select the right player, they could turn it around quickly. There is some talent on that roster. I'm not saying that next season they will be the 1997/98 Spurs but games like this will definitely be an anomaly.
Vine of the night
Just one of the many Parker drives of the night. Tony had it going from inside and out and finished with 28 points in 18 shots to go with five assist and only one turnover. Just a great all around performance.
The Spurs will face the Nets on Saturday in San Antonio. Both teams will be on SEGABABAs (second game of a back-to-back for the uninitiated). The Nets narrowly defeated OKC to move to 5-7 and four of their players were on the court for over 30 minutes in the win. On top of that, they are experiencing internal problems, with Kirilenko apparently set to leave the team. It should be a win for the Spurs. And it could be one of the last times Tim Duncan goes against Kevin Garnett. So be sure to tune in.