No Manu Ginobili, no Kawhi Leonard and no Marco Belinelli. Yet no problem for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. It was business as usual for the defending champions.
San Antonio dominated Minnesota from the start, cruising to an easy 108-93 victory over the Wolves on Saturday night, which isn't saying much given the current state of the team.
The energy level and overall play by the starters was abysmal. None of the veterans -- Mo Williams, Thad Young or Chase Budinger (started in place of Shabazz Muhammad, who is dealing with lower abdominal soreness) -- played well, but it was their lackadaisical defense that was most disturbing. Combine that with dud performances offensively, the three shot a combined 5-24, and the Wolves had no chance of making this competitive.
Pretty much every Spurs player got exactly what they wanted offensively. The Wolves couldn't stop them.
"I thought that we weren't defending," coach Flip Saunders admitted after the game. "I thought that we were chasing for the first three quarters. We were just trying to find them. I thought in the fourth quarter that some of our guys got a little bit better at some of the things we did. They were shooting 56% for most of the game, then guys got in the fourth quarter and they contested, they showed good energy and got them down below 49%."
While it's nice to see the Wolves "compete" until the bitter end, I don't find much solace in Saunders' words. Taking three quarters to show any sort of resistance on the defensive end is embarrasing. The fact they were able to get a few stops in the fourth certainly doesn't make up for three quarters of lousy rotations and porous help defense.
Austin Daye scored a season-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Yes, Austin Daye, a little-used bench warmer that's scored in double-digits twice this season prior to the game. A player that has already collected 16 DNPs and almost never plays. Daye destroyed the Wolves, nabbing his second double-double of the season. His first? You guessed it, that came against the Wolves earlier this year in San Antonio.
"We needed it, we needed somebody to step up with Manu and Beli down," Tim Duncan said. "Tony is still trying to find his rhythm back into the games and we needed a boost from someone. Great boost from him, he played great, he shot the ball well, played with a lot of confidence and took us over the top."
There really isn't much else to say about this game. The team continues to have the same issues: awful point guard play that puts pressure on Wiggins to create his own shot out of iso situations, poor spacing, bad defense with cruddy rotations, and a general inability to guard the pick-and-roll or protect the rim.
The effort level, though, was more concerning tonight than in recent games. Sure, the team was on a back-to-back after losing last night in Milwaukee, and they haven't won for a month straight, but I was still incredibly disappointed with the effort; mostly on the defensive end.
"I would trade anything for the win," Dieng confessed after the game. "It's time we all realize we need to take this very personal. We need to play harder to win games."
And Dieng is right, the team needs to play harder if they want to end their month long losing streak (or at least have a chance). They're not talented or deep enough to sacrifice effort. Earlier this week the team played extremely hard against the Phoenix Suns and gave themselves a shot to win at the buzzer. Tonight, the defense was non-existent and the effort simply wasn't the same.