Last year at this time (and you all know what time of year it is), I wrote the first Christmas Day Stocking Stuffers. In it, I explained that stocking stuffers aren't real presents. They are mini-presents that can be opened and played with, and often aren't even wrapped.
Wednesday night, I watched the Spurs' win over the Timberwolves on the Timberwolves television feed. As a Spurs fan in Los Angeles, my League Pass often sticks me with the other team's announcing crew. I decided there was enough material from the first quarter of that game to fill an entire Christmas stocking. I hope you agree.
· Let me first say that the Minnesota announcers, play-by-play man Dave Benz and color analyst Jim Petersen, are excellent. They really know the game and, just as importantly, are not total homers like the Clippers announcers or the Celtics' Tommy Heinsohn. The T'Wolves crew is extremely respectful of the Spurs and all that the Spurs have accomplished over the years. In many ways, you can tell that they hope this young T'Wolves team evolves into the Spurs-like model. They probably really wish that was happening faster than it is. The old Spurs held the young T'Wolves, who average over 101 points per game, to 16 points in the first quarter.
· Apparently T'Wolves coach Sam Mitchell agrees. At the start of the game, Dave Benz reported that in Mitchell's pre-game talk to his team, he told them that they would be playing "the best team in the NBA". While fans of a certain team based in Oakland may disagree, it is good to hear that others around the league are seeing the same thing we report daily here at Pounding the Rock.
· They also reported on a pre-game interview with my man Manu, who made an interesting point. Manu said that in past years, the players the Spurs brought in who were primarily role players asked to fit into the Spurs system. Manu contrasted this with this year's team, in which the Spurs brought in two players who were established stars in the league - meaning that in some ways the team had to adjust to the players, not only the other way around. I found it fascinating that Manu went out of his way to include David West in the "established stars" description. Before the season, all the talk was about LaMarcus Aldridge, but we are all now seeing all that West has brought to the table too.
· It was "Ugly Christmas Sweater Night" for the game. From what they showed before and after commercials, about 15,000 fans tied for first place.
· Before the game, I wondered to myself if the coaching staff has considered moving Danny Green to the second unit to try to get him out of this season-long shooting slump. It would be unusual to make such a change with a team that is otherwise playing so well. That being said, taking him out of the starting line-up may be just the jolt needed to clear his mind so he can start draining 3s again. However, perhaps the ugly sweaters in the stands provided that jolt - DG finally made more than half of his threes, and had another taken away when a foul was called just before he shot.
· Interesting statistic provided by the T'Wolves stat crew: The Spurs take the 22nd most shots in the league - put another way, they take the 10th fewest shots. Nonetheless, the Spurs make the second most. A testament to shot selection, one of the most under-rated strengths of the Spurs coaching staff.
· The T'Wolves young star is Karl-Anthony Townes, who they refer to as KAT. They ran a great montage comparing the young KAT to Tim Duncan (younger version) in terms of defense, footwork and fundamentals. Interesting comparison, and a wee bit optimistic from the T'Wolves standpoint. The announcing crew was good enough to acknowledge the optimism, though they also said the KAT has more range than TD ever did. Well, except for that one time (or that other time). In any event, we will all need to check back in 20 years.
· Ian Dougherty wrote a good piece on the Kevin Garnett - Tim Duncan rivalry, and the debate about who has been better. The T'Wolves ran a graphic during the game showing that TD has out-scored, out-rebounded and out-shot blocked KG - in two fewer seasons. Of course, there is also one other category that TD has out-performed KG...