OK, let me begin by saying that there are no two teams in the entire NBA that I like more than the Wolves and Spurs. I spent a fair amount of time in West Central Texas (hooray San Angelo) as well as the San Antonio area (hooray USAF) and I think there are very few teams in professional sports who do their thang better than the Spurs. All of that being said, last night's tilt was a brutal, brutal spectacle. First of all, Al Jefferson, Corey Brewer, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili did not play. Secondly, the game was on League Pass Broadband and I had to listen to Sean Elliot. Can't we all just pass a law which states that all former Arizona Wildcats have to withdrawal from the public eye as a gesture of shame for their alma mater making the field of 64? It's about as maddening as the AIG bonuses. Anywho...
The Spurs did their typical thing last night: they came out with a clear game plan, executed it, kept the Wolves from driving to the hoop, hit the boards, and walked away with a victory sealed on the backs of free throws and offensive rebounding.
Normally, after a Spurs game I'd go on and on about the importance of possessions and how beautiful it is to watch a team go about its business in such a professional and relentless manner so that one minute they are up by 2 and then before you know it they have a 10 point lead in the 3rd. This is pretty much what happened last night. The Spurs packed it in, didn't send the Wolves to the line, and forced a poor shooting club to go over the top.
While the Wolves actually finished ahead of the Spurs on eFG%, the Spurs made a solid bet that they could make it up on the boards (Kevin Love was the only Wolf who gave a damn on the glass) and the line (without Big Al, they simply played back off of any T-Wolf who has something approaching a dribble-drive game).
Did I mention how much it sucks to have to listen to Sean Elliot call a game? Why couldn't this LPB game have happened against Eddie Johnson and the Suns? Hell, I'd take Tommy Points over Mr. Elliot.
Let's finish this thing up with a return of the bullet points:
Ryan Gomes started the game like gangbusters. He was active, he had some nice hustle plays, and then, for the first time in quite a while, he disappeared behind poor shooting. Now, I'm not the type of guy to encourage poor shooting players to jack it up, but I was really hoping that Gomes would force up 15-20 shots. When he shoots the ball this means the Wolves are moving the ball well and that even on his misses, he is big enough to draw contact. Plus, it's not like any other T-Wolf can force it with as much (relative) effectiveness as Gomes.
Mike Miller = 8 shots. Seriously, it's called basketball. James Naismith invented it a long time ago and the Spurs happen to play it very well. They came out with an obvious game plan (and pecking order) and as the single offensively capable veteran on a young squad, one would think that a player like Miller would have a bit more situational awareness. Hell, this sort of thing wasn't exactly a problem on the night before for the Thunder. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green know where their bread is buttered. Craig Smith had 1 less shot in nearly 20 fewer minutes than Miller. I don't normally complain about Miller's lack of shooting; he did have a team high +6 and he brings a relative wealth of extras to the squad, but come on. This was a game where the team needed him to jack up some shots more than they needed him to run the offense. Miller was also the recipient of one of the worst technical calls I've seen in a long while. His offense? He tossed a ball to an official who wasn't looking after an offensive foul call. Oh, the humanity!!!
- If Randy Foye isn't going to run the point or make shots, he needs to bring more than 0 rebounds and 1 assist.
- I know the Spurs didn't exactly field a full squad, but you can really tell the years are adding up with the players they do have. Yes, Greg Popovich didn't have to dig into his bag of tricks to pull this one out against a bad Wolves team but at this point in the season I just don't think there is a switch they can turn on against a superior squad.
- Kevin Love is going to be a very, very good player. In many ways, he already is. 7-11 with 17 points and 19 boards in just over 31 minutes is pretty good. He also got to the line a team high 5 times. One of his misses was a late-game three attempt. 70% shooting with boards and free throws = awesome. He did have some issues with help defending Tony Parker off the dribble. When Love went to the bench, the Wolves had huge problems on the defensive glass. It will be interesting to look through the Game Flow to see just how much they gave up on the boards without Love on the floor. Love now has a 17.97 PER. He gets to the line, doesn't turn the ball over, and he rebounds like a fiend. He shot over 50% in January and February and his mid range game will come (along with additional passing).
- Love's Basketball Reference page now has a sponsor:
Devilzsidewalk sponsor(s) this page.
Kevin Love > Brook Lopez and OJ Mayo - AND THAT'S A SCIENTIFIC FACT!!! Now I don't want to hear anymore about how McHale screwed up the pick, this bus is HOF bound. So no more about MayoTheGreat or Brook Olajuwon (I'm looking at you Jonathan Watters!)
Rodney Carney had a weird play in the 2nd. He made a dunk that hit the bottom of the net (which was closed shut by Roger Mason) and popped out. It was called as a blocked/missed shot. It should have been a goal tend.
- The Wolves had an unfortunate stretch of possessions near the end of the 4th where Sebastian Telfair was clearly fouled on a drive to the hoop. It went uncalled and the next trip down the court Tony Parker was "fouled" by Kevin Love. Parker made the first free throw, missed the 2nd, and the Spurs got the rebound and made a bucket. On the next time down the court Bassy forced the action again and got the call he should have received a possession earlier.
Well, that about does it. It wasn't exactly a beautiful game to watch but at least both teams had the good sense not to wear any silly green uniforms.