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The Spurs' defensive rebounding led them to victory over the Timberwolves

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The Spurs had a great night on the defensive glass and contested the Timberwolves' shots to get an easy win on the road.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Spurs 108, Timberwolves 93 - Jan 10, '15

The Spurs took care of business against the Timberwolves despite the absences of Manu Ginobili , Marco Belinelli and Kawhi Leonard. San Antonio got the lead in the final minutes of the first quarter and never looked back, controlling the game from then on and holding Minesota at arm's length to win their fourth game out of the last five. As it has been the case lately, there were some troubles closing it but the Spurs didn't collapse and got the victory on the second game of a back-to-back with Duncan and Parker playing under 30 minutes.

Four Factors (def.)

Spurs Timberwolves
Shooting (eFG%) 52% 41%
Ball Handling (TO%) 13% 13%
Off Rebounding (OR%) 21% 16%
Shooting FTs (FT Rate) 24% 32%

The Spurs had a clear edge on two of the four factors, surprisingly taking the offensive rebounding category. Gregg Popovich has traditionally not put much emphasis on crashing the offensive glass and this season's team is no exception. They rank 23rd in in the league in offensive rebound percentage.

The curious thing is the 21 percent they logged on Saturday is actually smaller than the 23.4 percent they average for the season. So it's not that the Spurs had an unusually good offensive rebounding game. They had an exceptional defensive rebounding game, holding a Timberwolves team that ranks seventh in offensive rebounding to a well below average night despite there being plenty of chances to chase misses. Only Gorgui Dieng made some damage but his five offensive boards were not enough to make up for a terrible shooting night for Minnesota.

Team Stats (Definitions at bottom of post)

Spurs Timberwolves
Pace (No. of Possessions) 97.1
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.11 0.96
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.29 1.15
2-PT FG% 53.3% 43.9%
3-PT FG% 37.5% 20.0%
FT% 85.0% 100.0%
True Shooting % 58.2% 50.3%
Spurs
Timberwolves
Offensive Rating 112.7 94.5
Defensive Rating 94.5 112.7
Net Rating 18.3 -18.3
Spurs Timberwolves
Passes / poss. 3.5 3.0
% of FGA uncontested 46.4% 32.1%
Points in the paint 46 50
Second chance points 6 10
Fast break points 19 16
Spurs Timberwolves
Assists 21 17
Steals 9 7
Turnovers 11 13
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.73 1.85
Spurs Timberwolves
Expected Offensive Rebounds 11.0 10.8
Offensive Rebounds 9 7
Difference -2.0 -3.8

The Timberwolves' offensive struggles can be boiled down to two stats: Their low true shooting percentage, which obviously signals they don't have good scorers yet, but also the percentage of uncontested looks they got. Close shots tend to be contested while outside shots, especially three-pointers, tend to be uncontested more often. Their 32.1 percent of uncontested shots signals an over reliance on shots close to the basket. The two problems are beautifully illustrated by their shot chart:

Wolves shot chart

The Timberwolves took only 15 three-pointers, which is actually very close to the 14.8 three-point attempts they take on average. The Spurs, on the other hand, average 21.9 threes a game and took 24 on the night. The outside shot is a key component to good modern offenses and the Wolves should look to make it a bigger part of their game plan. Unfortunately, coach Flip Saunders might not be the right guy for the job and I doubt GM Flip Saunders replaces him with a more forward-thinking coach.

Fun fact: the Timberwolves joined the Warriors as the only two teams to have perfect nights from the line on more than 20 free throws. The Spurs are usually good at defending without fouling but the Wolves are one of the best teams in the league at drawing contact, ranking sixth in total free throw attempts. It was a good thing they couldn't buy a three and the Spurs had an efficient game from the line as well because a night like that from the charity stripe could have meant trouble for San Antonio otherwise.

Players (Definitions at bottom of post, columns sortable)

Spurs

Player
Min
AdjGS
GS/Min
Line
Usage%
Floor%
OffRtg
DefRtg
NetRtg
Austin Daye 36 23.3 0.65 22 Pts (8-13 FG, 4-8 3PT, 2-2 FT) 10 Reb (2 Off), 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 4 PF 19% 62% 113.8 84.2 29.6
Patty Mills 26 20.4 0.78 19 Pts (7-11 FG, 2-4 3PT, 3-4 FT) 2 Reb (1 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 PF 22% 72% 109.6 94.1 15.5
Cory Joseph 27 17.8 0.65 12 Pts (5-8 FG, 2-2 FT) 2 Reb (0 Off), 5 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 TO 17% 69% 116.1 98.1 18.0
Tim Duncan 21 14.6 0.70 13 Pts (5-6 FG, 3-4 FT) 6 Reb (0 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 TO, 1 PF 21% 69% 114.6 76.6 38.0
Danny Green 30 9.9 0.33 7 Pts (2-6 FG, 1-4 3PT, 2-2 FT) 5 Reb (0 Off), 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 PF 11% 58% 115.9 97.1 18.9
Boris Diaw 32 7.0 0.22 11 Pts (5-15 FG, 1-3 3PT ) 5 Reb (2 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 3 PF 23% 37% 105.4 105.6 -0.2
Tiago Splitter 17 6.3 0.37 7 Pts (2-7 FG, 3-4 FT) 4 Reb (2 Off), 1 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 2 PF 27% 41% 121.0 108.6 12.5
Tony Parker 25 5.8 0.23 12 Pts (5-11 FG, 0-1 3PT, 2-2 FT) 5 Reb (0 Off), 1 Ast, 3 TO, 2 PF 27% 42% 107.0 102.7 4.3
Matt Bonner 22 3.4 0.16 5 Pts (2-7 FG, 1-4 3PT ) 4 Reb (2 Off), 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 2 PF 18% 29% 112.1 92.3 19.7
Kyle Anderson 2 0.4 0.15 0 Pts 1 Reb (0 Off), 0% 0% 116.3 82.9 33.3
Aron Baynes 2 -0.9 -0.41 0 Pts 1 Reb (0 Off), 1 TO 17% 0% 136.1 57.1 78.9

Show Timberwolves Players

The Austin Daye game! Daye is not shy about pulling the trigger and this time his shots were finding the bottom of the net. He didn't do much asides from scoring efficiently and pulling down boards but it was enough to take the top spot on adjusted game score. Patty Mills had a better game score per minute and Tim Duncan had the best net rating out of all players involved but we'll let Daye have this one.

As for the Wolves, Gorgui Dieng showed off his finishing ability to end the game with a floor percentage of 78 percent, meaning good things happened when he was involved in plays. Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins also had good performances, showing that Minnesota's core has promise. They just need to ride out the season and add another good prospect and they will be on their way to becoming dangerous again.

Spurs Index: 100.1 (def.)

Factor Value Score
Passing (AST%) 51.2% 24.7
Shooting (eFG%) 52.4% 19.5
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 83.7% 21.9
Defense (DefRtg) 94.5 21.2
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 32.1% 12.7
Total 100.1

Timberwolves Spurs Index: 89.8 Show Breakdown

A low assist percentage made this a completely average game in the Spurs Index despite above average rebounding and shot-contesting. Against bad teams, that's usually more than enough to get the win. And since the Spurs were without key players, we'll take a night in which they match or exceed the stats they posted a season ago.

The Spurs will now have two days off before playing the Wizards on Tuesday.

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Definitions

eFG%: Effective Field Goal percentage. (via) Effective Field Goal Percentage; the formula is (FG + 0.5 * 3P) / FGA. This statistic adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. For example, suppose Player A goes 4 for 10 with 2 threes, while Player B goes 5 for 10 with 0 threes. Each player would have 10 points from field goals, and thus would have the same effective field goal percentage (50%).

AdjGS: a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual's "score" for a given game. The "adjustment" in Adjusted Game Score is simply matching the total game scores to the total points scored in the game, thereby redistributing the game's points scored to those who had the biggest impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

Usage%: This "estimates the % of team possessions a player consumes while on the floor" (via). The usage of those possessions is determined via a formula using field goal and free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers. The higher the number, the more prevalent a player is (good or bad) in a team's offensive outcome.

Floor%: Via Basketball-Reference.com: Floor % answers the question, "when Player X uses a possession, what is the probability that his team scores at least 1 point?". The higher the Floor%, the more frequently the team probably scores when the given player is involved.

Offensive Rating (offRtg): Points per 100 possessions.

Defensive Rating (defRtg): Points allowed per 100 possessions.

Spurs Index: The Spurs Index © is a just-for-fun formula that attempts to quantify just how "Spursy" a particular game is, based off averages for the 2013-2014 regular season. A perfectly average game would have a Spurs Index of 100. The formula consists of four factors which the Spurs are known for and lead or nearly lead the league in: Shooting (effective Field Goal %), Passing (Assist percentage), Defensive Rebounding Rate, and Defensive Rating. These metrics are weighted as follows:

Factor Weight Average
Passing (AST%) 30% 62.1%
Shooting (eFG%) 20% 53.7%
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 20% 76.4%
Defense (DefRtg) 20% 100.1
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 10% 40.8%
The values for each metric are determined based on how a particular game's performance compares to the Spurs 2013-2014 regular season average for that metric. For instance, the average effective Field Goal percentage for 2013-2014 was 53.7%. So if the Spurs shot 60% in a given game, the score for eFG% would be calculated by: (0.6 / 0.537) * 20, which would yield a "score" for that factor of 22.3.

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