The Pups had a chance to close the season on a winning note Wednesday night in San Antonio after losing their last home game at Target Center to Utah on Monday. The Spurs came into Wednesday’s game a little banged up and it shouldn’t have been too surprising to see them give their regulars limited roles in the game.
Nikola Pekovic sat out Wednesday’s game again, finishing the season having missed 20 of the 82 games, allowing legitimate questions about his durability given his forthcoming free agency. That said, taking out Love’s 18 game season, Big Pek led the team in scoring and rebounding, with 16.3 and 8.8 per game respectively.
The Timberwolves opened the game with Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Stiemsma. The Spurs countered with Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, and Matt Bonner. Minnesota actually got off to a pretty strong start, jumping out to an 11-4 lead. About halfway through the 1st quarter, the Wolves held a 20-11, with Tim Duncan looking like the only Spur to have brought a live body to the court on the evening. Conversely, each Pup starter was on the board with at least one basket, led by Rubio and Williams.
In typical Spurs fashion, they continued to chip away into the lead over the next few minutes, tying the game at 24 with about one minute to go. Rubio and Budinger hit a pair of three points in the final minute or so to give the Wolves a 30-24 lead going into the 2nd quarter.
JJ Barea started off the 2nd quarter with two missed shots, further supporting my plea to exile him. Seconds later, Chris Johnson – with surprising early minutes – threw down a tremendous dunk. The early minutes of the quarter were entertaining until the Spurs went on a 12-2 run to take a 50-46 lead with a few minutes left in the half. The Wolves tried to answer, but Tony Parker took over in the final minute of the half. At halftime, Spurs led 61-56.
Here are a couple of halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:
- League Pass Mobile was, surprise-surprise, bumpy at best on Wednesday. I had to give up the Benz-Peterson combo to listen to Sean Elliott halfway through the 1st quarter. This wasn’t a good thing.
- Derrick Williams had a nice half of basketball, and I’m hoping the team can maximize his value this summer – in whatever capacity is best for this team’s future.
Return trip from Italy the night before will lead to some quick thoughts the rest of the way, as I was in and out of consciousness for much of the second half, excluding the final few minutes when I wedged toothpicks between my eyelids to keep them open to see the end of the season. (That last part of the story is not true.)
After starting hot in the 3rd quarter, the Wolves went cold in the final few minutes. However, the Spurs did nothing to take advantage of this situation, as they also struggled to make a shot in the final minutes as well. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Wolves held an 80-76 lead.
In the 4th quarter, the Wolves were able to build a double digit lead as Duncan and Parker remained on the bench for the Spurs. Despite what felt like a slow, final few minutes, the Wolves were never really threatened and pulled out their first victory in San Antonio since January 2004, snapping a 16 game losing streak. (Ouch.)
Our Pups finished the season with 31 victories, the most since ‘06/’07 when they had 32 victories under Dwane Casey and Randy Wittman but certainly not something to brag about. A season filled with so much promise ended without the playoffs in the team’s immediate future, largely due to the team being ravaged by injury. The franchise goes into another offseason with more questions than answers:
- Will Rick Adelman return?
- Will Taylor resign David Kahn?
- What will happen with Nikola Pekovic’s impending free agency?
- Can the team afford to keep Chase Budinger?
- Can the front office find a SG in free agency or the draft?
- The NBA draft is always a question mark with this franchise …
- Can we please get rid of JJ Barea?
- Assuming Love is healthy, should the Wolves move DWill?
Keys of the Game
- Three point shooting – One more time, the Wolves put together a nice showing when they shoot the ball well, specifically from beyond the arc Wednesday night. Minnesota hit 12 three pointers (?!) in San Antonio on 41% shooting, including 3 makes from both Rubio and Budinger.
- Active hands – Combining steals and turnovers here as they go hand in hand in many cases. The Wolves held an 11-5 advantage over the Spurs in steals and forced 17 turnovers for the home team. Noteworthy stat: Greg Stiemsma had 5 steals and 1 block.
Three Stars of the Game
- Derrick Williams – Solid performance from DWill to close out his season – 21 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
- Greg Stiemsma – Very active game from Stiemsma, finishing with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and as referenced above, 5 steals and 1 block. Greg played over 30 minutes and was 6-8 from the floor for one of his best performances of the season.
- Tim Duncan – You have to give the old man a lot of credit; 17 points and 14 rebounds in 27 minutes and Duncan continues to perform at a high level. Unbelievable.