I’m going to be honest from the outset: I did not see all of the Spurs exciting win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. I’m visiting family in Houston, and for some reason I have a magic touch when it comes to getting my 2 1⁄2 year-old nephew to go to sleep. Sometimes it’s immediate, and sometimes it’s a multi-hour affair. I can proudly say that between putting on pajamas, reading books and going to sleep, I managed to get him down in about 45 minutes.
Regardless, as a result I mainly saw the fourth quarter since I obviously can’t have my phone screen going when trying to get a toddler to lay down and be quiet. However, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t much to take away from this game from what little I saw.
- I honestly did not realize that DeMar DeRozan was not in the game until after it was over and I glanced at the box score. To be clear, that is not a knock on him. Having averaged a very un-Spursian third-most minutes in the league so far, he has looked gassed in recent games. Even though last night’s game off was more the result of a stiff ankle (likely after rolling it in the Mavs game) than Gregg Popovich taking Pounders’ advice and resting him, it was still a much-needed break for him. Not too long ago, during that November slump we keep referring to, DeRozan’s absence would have practically been a death knell for this Spurs team, especially on the road against a good home team like the T-wolves (now 15-8). Instead, the Spurs put in another solid performance even without their best scorer and facilitator with 24 assists on 41 field goals, 50% shooting. Again, this is not a knock on DeRozan as being “replaceable,” but rather recognizing how well the Spurs are coming together that they were able to step up in the absence of their best player. Kinda sounds like the successful Spurs of yesteryear . . .
- Speaking of assists, the Spur leading the charge in DeRozan’s absence was Patty Mills with 8 on the night: a season-high. It wasn’t one of his better shooting performances (1-6 for 3 points), but between the assists, his constant hustle and leadership, it was a reminder that his value to the team extends far beyond making three-pointers, a factor that can sometimes get lost when evaluating his performance.
- We recently mentioned that the Spurs accomplished a season-first of two consecutive road wins when they beat the Clippers on Dec. 29 and Pistons on Jan 7. However, that was sandwiched around three home games. Last night’s victory came after a win in Dallas on Wednesday, making this the Spurs’ first winning road trip of the season (which we’ll define as two or more consecutive road games), and their first one since they went 2-1 on a three-game trip to Portland, Utah and Sacramento back in December 2017. The Spurs now sit at 9-14 on the road for the season with the Rodeo Road Trip coming up in two weeks. That will be the real test to see if the Spurs have put their year-long road woes behind them, but beating two West teams with good home records in consecutive games is definitely a good start.
- Davis Bertans had another spectacular night off the bench for the Spurs, with 11 points on 4-5 from the field (3-4 from three) and team-high +13. However, he saved his best moment for the final possession of the game. With the Spurs up three and Minnesota attempting to take it to overtime, he played some amazing defense on Derrick Rose, staying in front of him and not falling for a pump fake. The result was a Rose 26-foot air-ball from beyond the arc over Bertans’ perfectly positioned, outstretched arms. (I couldn’t find any footage of the play, but if anyone can feel free to post it in the comments). Bertans is really coming around as a defender to compliment his offensive game and should continue to see a rise in minutes. Also, there’s this:
- MARCO WATCH: Nothing like a classic Marco Belinelli pump-fake-to-leaning-three to end things off. He contributed 19 points on this night. He also had a steal-and-slam that put the Spurs up by 5 inside the final two minutes, and they held on for the win.