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Spurs show grit in overtime win over Timberwolves

Veterans shine and make big plays down the stretch to pull out a 125-122 OT victory

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Minnesota Timberwolves David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

There is an argument to be made that the San Antonio Spurs need to purge their roster of aging veterans to allow more playing time for the young up-incoming players. I wouldn’t say that strategy would be totally wrong, but games like this show why it is an ultimately flawed one.

I liken it to having a broken leg, like the way a roster full of unproven young players is well….. broken. It doesn’t work the way it should. The fix is to apply a cast to let the injury heal. That is what the veterans are, they are the cast. They hold things together until the leg is ready to sustain the weight.

Once the cast is removed the leg should be ready to function properly. It obviously won’t be without faults, but it will have the proper structure to be built back up to what it once was. Of course you could forgo the cast and let the leg heal on its own, and it will. However, it won’t heal the way it is supposed to and it will never be the same again.

The only thing young guys losing together teaches them is how to lose together. The evidence you need is right across the court. What has Minnesota done recently?

The caveat to my theory is that the veterans have to be helping your young team win games. So far this season they have, and as long as they are competing for the playoffs, they should still be getting their minutes on the court.

Patty Mills was excellent against the Minnesota Timberwolves and made big plays over and over again. At the beginning of the 4th quarter the Spurs had let their halftime lead slip away and the offense was looking pretty shaky. Patty then hit back-to-back threes to give the Spurs the lead again at 89-88.

In overtime he showed up big again. The first time was on a possession late in the shot clock. DeRozan drove the ball and kicked it to Dejounte on the wing, there were about 3 seconds left on the shot-clock and I was thinking he had made a mistake by not shooting, but instead he had swung it to Patty Mills. Patty put up the shot as the buzzer sounded and, “G’Day mate”! Spurs lead 121-117.

His second huge play in overtime was an even closer call. DeRozan had the ball again with the clock winding down. He was going to try his patented mid-range jumper, but it was too well defended. Out of desperation he passed the ball to Patty. I thought there was no way Patty could get this shot off, but he took one dribble around his defender and nailed a jumper for 2 more Spur points to give them a 6-point lead with 46 seconds remaining. Patty Mills is awesome. He ended his night with 21 points on 8/14 shooting and 5/8 from downtown.

Down the stretch the Spurs relied heavily on their veterans. When the game was on the line and they needed a bucket they either went with a LaMarcus Aldridge post up or a DeRozan/Aldridge pick and roll. And it worked.

DeMar was fantastic tonight. He scored 38 points with 5 rebounds and 5 assists. He shot an efficient 13/23 and got to the free throw line 13 times hitting 12 of them. The season is still young, but it might be the best one of his career. His scoring as he always does, maybe a little down, but his passing is the best it’s ever been. This is 100% his team and I like it.

Game notes

  • Keldon Johnson was at his best and his worst tonight. His best included his usual aggressive play on offense. He had 17 points and 9 rebounds and still shows no fear driving hard to the lane. You would think a guy that drives that hard would get the the line more. That’s the old adage isn’t it? That the more aggressive team usually gets the calls. He had zero trips to the line in both games against the L.A. teams and only 4 tonight. As time goes on he should get more calls that go his way.
  • Keldon’s defense was not really good tonight. He continually lost Malik Beasley over and over again which Malik was able to take advantage of and hit 7 3-pointers. It wasn’t just him though, nobody on the team seemed interested in stepping up on D tonight. As per usual they forced a lot of turnovers, but in the first half Minnesota shot around 60% from the field. They ended at 50% so I guess the second half was better, but this game should not have been this close. If I were playing the Spurs, I would just run pick and roll every single play. They can’t stop it.
  • I’m starting to really like Dejounte Murray. His shooting isn’t always there. He’s not very efficient, but he does so much other stuff to makes up for it. He’s averaging career highs in rebounds (he had 14 tonight) and assists. In my amateur way of analyzing players I always look to see what they do even when they aren’t scoring points and Dejounte passes that test. He provides help to his team in a way every game. And he’s not bad on defense either.
  • Lonnie Walker IV had another disappearing act tonight. That might be for the best, because when I did notice him it usually wasn’t for anything good. His decision making was especially weak tonight. Twice he tried running a 2-on-1 fast break and made the wrong choice both times. It feels like he goes too fast for his own good sometimes. I hope he figures it all out because when he’s on, he’s really fun to watch.

Next game

Sunday, January 10th @ Minnesota (again) 7pm tipoff.