The Timberwolves entered their first meeting of the season against the Spurs having lost their last 2 games, both of which were on the road, and trying to get back to .500 on the season. The Spurs were looking to rebound from a tough OT battle against Memphis and trying to continue their 11 game home win streak. The depleted Timberwolves roster got both JJ Berea and Lazar Hayward back to try and help the Wolves turn around this road trip in what will be the NBA’s best attempt to recreate the Euroleague.
The Wolves started Pek, Cunningham, AK, Shved and Ridnour while the Spurs sent a starting 5 of Splitter, Duncan, Green, Leonard and Parker to the floor. It looked like a great start for the Wolves who were able to score on their first 2 possessions and held the Spurs scoreless through the first 2 minutes of the game. Dante Cunningham, who has looked disinterested at times the last few games, started the 1st quarter showing energy and a jump shot. The Wolves were able to open up an impressive 16-7 lead with 6:05 left to play in the opening quarter. The Spurs went to the bench to bring in Ginobili during a dead ball, and that sparked a 17-5 run for the Spurs to close out the 1st quarter and hold a 24-21 lead for the Wolves.
The Spurs bench which has been huge for them all season, was no different in the 1st half against the Wolves. The Spurs deep bench allowed them to open up an 11 point lead with 9 minutes to play in the 1st half. Ricky Rubio struggled in the half, as he had a -13, with 2 turnovers. The Wolves struggled at times with the quick up-tempo style game the Spurs play. The Spurs attacking guards might not be the quickest or even the most athletic, but it is how they continue to use picks to drive to the basket, that was beating the Wolves. While the Wolves had a decisive advantage against the Spurs inside when playing in the half court, the Spurs were getting a lot of points in the paint due to easy looks the guards were creating. The Wolves were able to counter the Spurs high 1st half fg% (57%), by getting to the free throw line and hitting those attempts, going 12-16, and only trailing the Spurs 55-50 at the halftime intermission.
The Spurs were able to due their damage with Ginobili (+14), Jackson (+13) and Diaw (+14 with only 3 points) on the floor for the Spurs, and their bench outscored the Wolves bench 32-18 in the 1st half. The Wolves 3 point shooting continued to be a problem as they were 2-7 for 28.6%, good news is the Spurs went 2-9 from 3 for 22% in the first half. While the Spurs are known for moving the ball, the Wolves had 13 assists on 18 1st half field goals. The Wolves energy was good in the 1st half and really limited the perimeter drives of the Spurs forcing them into outside jump shots. The Spurs got bad news during the halftime intermission as they found out Ginobili had a strained hamstring and would not return to the game.
Both teams started the 3rd quarter with almost the same starting 5, but the Spurs did add Diaw to the 2nd half starting lineup. The Wolves started the 2nd half the same way they started the 1st, great ball movement and 4 quick points to bring it to a 1 possession game. As basketball can be a game of runs, the Spurs quickly went on a 11-0 run and took a 66-54 lead with 6:27 to play in the 3rd. The Wolves countered with an 8-0 run themselves and brought it back to a 4 point deficit at 66-62 with 4:40 left to play in the quarter. Both teams settled down a little bit and traded baskets rather than making runs, and finished off the 3rd quarter with the Spurs leading the Wolves 78-71.
Gary Neil started the 4th quarter on a 1 man mission for the Spurs, as he scored 8 of the team’s first 10 points in the quarter, and 2 of the baskets were on 3 point shots giving the Spurs a 88-75 advantage with 9:04 left in the game. The Spurs were able to open up their lead to 15 on a put back dunk by Splitter with 8:10 to play. The Wolves managed to cut in to 10 points, after a driving layup by Berea which drew a double technical ejection for Greg Popovich with 7:22 left in the game. In what looked like it could be the turning point for the Wolves, it turned out to be the spark the Spurs needed. The Spurs went on a 9-0 run to open up a 19 point lead, with 5:28 remaining in the game. No matter how hard the Wolves played to close out the 4th quarter, the Spurs had an answer as they closed out the game knocking down shots and closing out the game with 106-88 victory.
Ricky Rubio had a bad game for the Wolves as he finished off the game with a -22, on 0-6 shooting, 2 assists and 2 turnovers.
In JJ Bereas return he had 15 points, but he went 4-11 to get his 15. JJ Did have 6 assists, but committed 5 turnovers.
DWill got 8 points on 3-9 shooting in a little over 24 minutes played.
The Wolves will look to end their 3 game losing streak as they continue their road trip Monday in Dallas with an 7:30 tip.