Tonight's game against the San Antonio Spurs was mathematically meaningless for the Timberwolves, who at 38-38 were already officially out of the Western Conference Playoff race. They were again without Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, Shabazz Muhammad and Chase Budinger, and were forced to insert a pair of rookies (Gorgui Dieng and Robbie Hummel) into their starting lineup.
For the Spurs, a victory wouldn't have been necessary, but it would have helped. They came into tonight ahead 4 games of Oklahoma City for the top spot in the Western Conference (and the entire NBA). With OKC losing on the road to Phoenix tonight, it seemed like a night with all the makings of a Gregg Popovich masterpiece.
But, as it has been documented over and over this year, the Timberwolves, simply put, have had a strange year. The Wolves didn't just beat the Spurs, they beat them by 19, and were up by nearly 30 at several points throughout the game. Yes, San Antonio was without Tony Parker, but keeping in mind Pop's success with adjustment to injury, along with the Wolves' own injury concerns, it was a game that most would still pick the Spurs as heavy favorites.
Oh, and Kevin Love shot just 5/15 in the game.
The Spurs lost the game in the first half by turning the ball over 10 times, allowing 14 points off of those turnovers (18 points off 16 turnovers total). On top of that, they shot just 23 percent from deep and 60 percent from the stripe (on 25 attempts). It was not the classic Spurs efficiency that we have grown used to seeing over the years.
The Wolves benefited from a pair of double doubles from Love (19 points, 12 boards, 4 assists) and Gorgui Dieng (12 points, 15 boards, 1 block) but the two shot a combined 9/30 from the field.
Tonight's shooting efficiency came from a few guys, but the most notable was Ricky Rubio.
Though he played consistent basketball in both halves, a heat check shot in the second half is what really got the crowd ("crowd") going. He finished the game 10/17 from the field with 23 points and 7 assists (ballhog?). He was hitting from outside and finishing inside, and even had a strange skyhook on at one point early in the second half.
The Wolves got out in front quickly, in part due to first half turnovers, and didn't let up (aside from a mild scare featuring an end-of-game JJ/Hummel/LMAM/DC/Turiaf lineup). They have wins this week against both Miami and San Antonio, the two current 1-seeds in the playoffs. This begs a question brought up by Britt Robson mid-game.
It's an annoying question for Wolves fans entertain, but it's also a good question, and pretty tough one to answer. Definitely something I'll need more time to think over.
A few final notes:
- Othyus Jeffers did make his Wolves regular season debut tonight, checking in with just under 2 minutes to go in the game. He didn't enter the stat column, but was actively looking to do so, playing with the same high level of activity that got him a preseason invite.
- Very, very short postgame press conference tonight. Rick Adelman was in a good a mood as any, but was still a short one nonetheless. One interesting point he brought up was how much he liked seeing Rubio shoot those mid-range jumpers. It was pointed out to me that tonight may not be the first time he's exclaimed his preference for that shot.
- This was almost really, really awesome. Though, I'm willing to settle for just, 'awesome'.
- Though they struggled to fully close the game in the 4th, the bench played great tonight. Aside from some lackadaisical passing late from Barea, and a pair ridiculously wild shots from J.J. and Alexey Shved, the second unit as individuals certainly helped more than hurt tonight.
- The Wolves will get back at it tomorrow night, this time against the Chicago Bulls. Same time, same place, same TV network.