The Minnesota Timberwolves are just puppies at this stage of their development. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are two of the most talented young big men in the league, but compared to veterans like LaMarcus Aldridge and David West, they are callow youths whose lack of knowledge can be easily exploited for easy buckets. Zach LaVine is another young canine who is starting to find his way, and he was pretty effective tonight, as he was the high scorer for the Wolves with 17 points.
Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan have been rivals in the NBA almost longer than Karl-Anthony Towns has been alive. Tonight was one of the last times they will face each other on the court. Garnett outscored Duncan 4 to 2, but points don't tell the whole story. Tim also had 5 rebounds, 4 blocks, 5 assists and a steal in 24 minutes. Not to mention scoring over a million on the leadership scale. KG only played 11 minutes, and was supplanted by Gorgui Dieng for most of the game.
The other veterans on the Timberwolves are enigmatic, to say the least. Ricky Rubio, who seemed destined to become a superstar when he entered the league, never learned to shoot well enough to become a credible scoring threat. Tayshaun Prince's career seems to be winding down, and he was practically invisible in tonight's game.
On the other hand, the Spurs young players seem to be coming into their own, as Kyle Anderson had a rare outing where he didn't get pulled by Gregg Popovich almost immediately after entering the game, playing an almost unprecedented 20 minutes,, including over 10 minutes consecutively in the third quarter of the game. Oh, and he scored 10 points and had several key defensive plays which kept the game out of reach for the T-Wolves. Jonathon Simmons had another solid outing in limited minutes.
The real difference in the game, was of course, Kawhi Leonard. It's beginning to become apparent that he's got to be mentioned whenever you talk about the best players in the game. He is developing a killer instinct. When he's being guarded by a smaller player, he will take his time and unless help comes very quickly, he will score. And often draw a foul in addition.
Tim Duncan, matched against Karl-Anthony Towns, somehow gained control of the opening tip and got it to Danny Green. Tony Parker scored the first basket of the game to give the Spurs a two point lead that they would never relinquish. Thirty seconds into the game, Kawhi Leonard erased a shot from Andrew Wiggins that set the stage for the rest of the game. Danny Green and Tony Parker got open looks at the basket from beyond the three point line and they hit them. The Spurs ended the first quarter up 28-12, but it felt like it could be even more.
The second quarter saw Zach LaVine come in and show off his quickness and mid-range game as he was the most dangerous producer for the T-pups. Green continued to be hot and even hit a three point shot that got disallowed due to a three second violation from Duncan. From the yelling and wild gesticulation coming from Coach Pop's direction, it seemed like he might have disagreed with the call. The Spurs increased their lead to 19 in the middle of the quarter, but Minnesota had a little mini-run towards the end of the quarter as the defense from the Spurs slacked off a bit and it looked like they might be regaining a bit of confidence as they cut the lead to 14 points, 52-38.
The Wolves' confidence spilled over after halftime as they scored 6 points from Towns, Wiggins and Rubio in just over a minute. Coach Pop called a quick timeout, and the Spurs came back on the court with a sense of purpose and scored 7 points of their own from Manu, Patty and David West. Kyle Anderson played the first 10 minutes of the quarter and did his part with defending, rebounding and distributing the ball. And he even got to score a basket of two. The Timberwolves were successful in drawing fouls and shot 12 free throws in the quarter to just just 4 for the Spurs which kept the score from getting completely out of hand. Nevertheless, the Spurs outscored them 25-23 in the quarter and ended up 77-61 at the end of three.
The fourth quarter was where the Spurs finally put the game out of reach. Danny Green hit another three point shot and despite good scoring from Shabazz Muhammed, the Wolves didn't have any answer for Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Boban Marjanovic came in with three and a half minutes left an the Spurs ended up winning 108-83.
Tweets n' stuff:
Who the hell needs teammates when you have Kawhi Leonard? https://t.co/p6X9ALLEKm— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) December 24, 2015
- The Spurs outscored their oppenent in each quarter of the game. According to the Magic Johnson theorem of scorekeeping, it's impossible for a team to lose a game when they do that.
- David West is an incredible asset to the Spurs. He seemed like an afterthought when he joined the Spurs this summer, but he's been anything but. As the season wears on, he's been instrumental in holding the bench together with solid play and leadership.
- I still have a long meditation on the greatness of Tim Duncan that I'm going to unveil the next time I recap a game where he scores more than two points.
- The Spurs roster is so talented from top to bottom. Even when the game isn't close, the Spurs can continue to punish the other team with talented second and third units.
- Green hit 4-5 shots for the game, and 2-3 from deep. Obviously, the D grade he got from Michael Erler earlier today motivated him.