GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Spurs - Feb. 6, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: I'm not sure how else to put it other than the Wolves ran into Danny Green in the fourth. Green finished with 28 points, a career high, and hit eight 3-pointers tonight en route to helping the Spurs begin their Rodeo Road Trip with a 104-94 win. Parker added 30, Leonard had 19 and Splitter had 12. For the Wolves, Pek finished with 21, Williams with 15 and 12, Barea with 13 and Rubio with nine points and 11 assists. Check back all night for more updates, analysis and interviews here at Timberwolves.com. Final: SAS 104, MIN 94

Q4 2:20: Danny Green is doing his best Ray Allen impression tonight. He's 8-of-12 (yes, he's really 8-of-12) from 3-point range and has 28 points. He has hit 4-of-5 from 3-point range this quarter alone and has 14 of the Spurs' 24 fourth-quarter points. But the Wolves are hanging in, and with 2:17 left they've got Rubio, Ridnour, Barea, Pek and DC on the floor. SAS 94, MIN 85

Q4 8:21: A couple 3-pointers have made this a tie game here with just over 8 minutes to play. Mickael Gelabale hit one from the wing that made it a 72-71 game, and then Barea connected with a 3-pointer of his own. We're all knotted up, and the Wolves are sending Barea, Shved, Gelabale, Cunningham and Stiemsma to the court out of this timeout. MIN 75, SAS 75

End Q3: Well, it appears we've got ourselves another fourth quarter in which every play is going to make the difference, and if the Wolves are going to take down the Spurs tonight on the first game of the 2013 Rodeo Road Trip they'll need to make good in a couple areas that have plagued them. For one, they need to continue to hit free throws. They're 13-of-15 tonight, and Pek has hit all 10 he's taken. He's been able to get to the line with his physical play, and they'll need to keep feeding him the ball. Second, they'll need to finish at the rim. Shots inside the restricted area have been all but guaranteed in the past few games. Third, getting productive minutes out of their back court will be crucial. Rubio had a great fourth on Monday, and Barea and Shved have been keys during fourth quarter victories this season. SAS 68, MIN 64

Q3 4:12: The Wolves just went on a quick run thanks to a nice impromptu play by Rubio--who caught his own deflected pass then found D-Will on the baseline for a contested lay-up--then a nice crossover and drive by Ridnour that brought the Wolves to within three. SAS 61, MIN 58

Q3 5:15: Pek has come out and put together a nice first half of the third quarter as we come out of the break. He's still perfect from the line (10-for-10) and he's hit a 2-of-2 from the field. He's got 10 of the team's 13 attempts from the line, and his presence inside drawing fouls is a big reason why the Wolves are just down by five right now. Meanwhile, Rubio has nine assists so far. The rest of the team has two total. SAS 59, MIN 54

Halftime: San Antonio went on a 10-2 run to end the half, including a 5-point run by Parker alone that helped give the Spurs a six-point lead going into the break. But Minnesota really weathered the Spurs' attack for much of the half, as Minnesota only shot 37 percent from the field. Pekovic has 10 points despite shooting 1-of-4 because he is 8-of-8 from the free-throw line. D-Will has six, Shved and Barea have five and Ridnour and Rubio have four. Rubio also has six assists. Tony Parker is beginning to warm up here, as he's got 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting. Kawhi Leonard has 13 points, and Danny Green has nine. SAS 47, MIN 41

Q2 3:25 Nice start to the game by Barea and Shved, who while working with Rubio have put up a combined 10 points and are shooting 2-of-3 from 3-point range. Barea just drained a 3-pointer that helped put Minnesota up 39-37 with under 3:30 to play in the half. MIN 39, SAS 37

Q2 8:30: Adelman went back to Rubio early in the second tonight, replacing Gelabale and going with a three-guard lineup with Shved at the 3. He said he might do that tonight, especially if Gelabale wasn't available with his thigh bruise. Meanwhile, Ricky is 2-of-5 from the floor and has hit a couple running lay-ups early on here to go along with his five assists. They're matching up with Neal, Bonner and De Colo right now. MIN 29, SAS 27

End Q1: Minnesota found a way to bring the Spurs down from 54 percent shooting to about 38 percent at the end of the quarter, and as a result the Wolves were able to come back and take a 23-21 lead heading into the second. Minnesota is led by six from D-Will and Pek, while Ridnour has four and Shved hit a 3-pointer in his first two minutes on the court. Parker has eight, Leonard has six and Neal has four for San Antonio. The Wolves are 5-of-6 from the line so far tonight. MIN 23, SAS 21

Q1 2:20: Minnesota hasn't had a lot of success finishing around the basket in recent games, and it's holding true again tonight. They've had a couple instances on lay-ups or in second chance point situations in which they've missed in high percentage opportunities. Meanwhile, the Wolves haven't tapped into their bench yet and are led by D-Will's six points--including 1-for-1 from 3-point range--and 4 from Pek and Ridnour. SAS 19, MIN 18

Q1 5:05: Ricky Rubio had 10 assists in the fourth quarter of Monday's game against Portland, and he's got five already in the first seven minutes of tonight's game. He's already connected with Derrick Williams for a flashy alley-oop tonight, and he's been awfully active in the team's ball movement. Moments ago, he had a nice touch pass inside to Mickael Gelabale in the paint for another assist. The Wolves are shooting 38 percent but are trailing by just three as the Spurs call the first timeout of the game. SAS 15, MIN 12

Starters:

Spurs:
PG-Tony Parker, SG-Danny Green, SF-Kawhi Leonard, PF-Boris Diaw, C-Tiago Splitter

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Luke Ridnour, SF-Mickael Gelabale, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 7:50 PM: Lots of admiration between Gregg Popovich and Rick Adelman, who coaches who have won at amazingly high clips over the duration of their careers. They've had a lot of battles against one another, and tonight they'll go head to head for the first time this season. Adelman missed the teams' first matchup in San Antonio, when Wolves assistant and former Spurs player Terry Porter was at the helm.

Popovich said he's said it many times that he believes Adelman is the most underrated coach in the NBA.

"Offensively, I think he's one of the most creative guys in the league," Popovich said. "His guys, even the guys that he's coached in the past that are on other teams now, you see them, what they do, they still do the things that he taught them offensively. He's very creative in that sense, and defensively, they work as hard as anybody, so, he's always done a great job."

Adelman said he knew Popovich possessed something special that would make him a great coach when he first started out in the mid-90s, joking that "special" possession was Duncan and David Robinson. But on a serious note, Adelman said it takes a good coach to be able to cultivate that talent and also be able to transition into a completely different offensive system as Robinson retired, Duncan got older and Parker became a force.

"Tim, I think, is the stabilizing force for him, and they just keep adding people around him," Adelman said. "But that's hard to do, and they've been consistent every single year. You've got to give him tremendous credit."

Pregame 7:25 PM: A couple pregame newsworthy topics about playing time in tonight's game, and both involve the 10-day contract guys for the Wolves. Mickael Gelabale will get the start tonight so long as he's available, as coach Rick Adelman said he's dealing with a thigh bruise. Kirilenko will miss tonight's game and said in shootaround he could be out 4-5 days with a right quad strain. If neither are available to go, the next option is going small and starting Alexey Shved at the 3. But that opens up some other potential troubles against this Spurs team.

"We don't have a 3 man," Adelman said without Kirilenko. "It could be 3 guards, but I'm thinking Gelly will play."

Meanwhile, Chris Johnson's minutes have fluctuated over the last four games due in part to matchups both down low and in the pick-and-roll game. If the front courts have been to physical, like the Clippers' Jordan/Griffin and the Blazers' Aldridge/Hickson, the Wolves have strayed away from playing him. Also they watch to make sure he's able to rotate correctly off picks. With Splitter the big man tonight, Adelman said he's contemplating how much time Johnson will get.

"[Tiago] Splitter is pretty skilled around the basket," Adelman said. "He's got good footwork, and he's another guy who does his job. When he's in the game, you know he's going to roll to the basket and if you pick him up someone else is going to be open. And he's got a guy named Parker who can find him. So I think Splitter is pretty good."

In other news, Kevin Love is in the building tonight and was doing a pregame workout in the Target Center weight room across the hall from the locker room. He'll be available for the media to talk with him tomorrow after practice. Stay tuned for more updates on him as we go throughout the week.

Pregame 5:55 PM: The Timberwolves are catching the Spurs without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili due to injury, and that clearly is an advantage to a certain degree considering just how talented and reliable those two have been over the years and continue to be. But the Spurs can bring it regardless of if their big names are on the court, and tonight they'll still have Tony Parker running things from the point.

I thought Parker had an MVP caliber season a year ago, and his numbers are better in 2013. He's averaging 20.1 points and 7.6 assists per game, shooting 53 percent from the field (his best since 2005-06) and has developed into a floor general for this team in recent seasons.

"His ability to handle the ball and use his speed--they find themselves more able to use his speed in the open court," Wolves assistant coach Jack Sikma said. "I think the style has helped Tony, but the thing you've got to respect is he continues to get better and he is more efficient, doesn't take bad shots, converts more of them. Makes the right play, and just solid every night."

Sikma said over the years the Spurs have moved a little bit more toward an up-tempo game and away from the dependency down low with Tim Duncan. That certainly complements Parker's game. Still, Duncan is having an exceptional season and has become an increasingly able big man who can facilitate from the elbow along with getting it done on the boards and near the rim. They'll miss him tonight, but Sikma expects Boris Diaw to step in and play that playmaker role from the 4.

The biggest difference without Duncan and Ginobili is knowing with the game on the line, the Spurs will have a better probability of going to Parker on the pick and roll. No doubt Parker enjoys that challenge, but he'd rather have the team at full strength.

"Yeah, but if I had to choose, I'd choose to play with Manu and Timmy," Parker said. "Cause if you keep going like that, I'll be tired by playoff time. For a couple games it's ok, but for the long run that's when we miss them. If it's only one or two games, we can try to win those games."

Parker said the Spurs can't complain too much. He knows which team San Antonio is playing tonight.

"Playing Minnesota tonight, they are without Kevin Love and Brandon Roy. We can't complain, guys have to step up and it's a great opportunity for guys like DeJuan Blair and [Aron] Baines to play.

Pregame 5:40 PM: Welcome to Target Center and a busy night here as the Timberwolves and Spurs get set to face off on national television tonight on both ESPN and Fox Sports North as well as 830 WCCO-AM. It’s also a big night as NBA commissioner David Stern is here, and he’s met not only with the Wolves’ organization this afternoon but also had a press conference earlier this afternoon. Look for that and a special one-on-one interview I did with the Commissioner on Timberwolves.com in the near future as we talked about the Wolves’ international brand, the legacy of Glen Taylor, his proudest moment as commissioner and the enthusiasm surrounding the NBA brand to date.

Here are some pregame news and notes before we get into the news of the afternoon.

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 25-70, and are 17-30 at home. The Spurs have won 23 of the previous 26 meetings, including a 106-88 win in San Antonio on Jan. 13, 2013.


  • The Wolves enter tonight in the 12th position in the Western Conference, 6.5 games behind Houston for the final playoff spot. Minnesota is 12-10 at Target Center this season.


  • Dante Cunningham set a Wolves single-game record on Saturday for the most consecutive field goals made in a game without a miss when he went 9-for-9 from the field. He then scored a career-high 23 points on Monday, including 17 in the 4th quarter.


  • Over the last five games, Ricky Rubio is averaging 11.2 points, on 46.3% shooting, 8.0 assists and 2.2 steals in 28.2 minutes per game. He has dished out 6+ assists in 10 of the last 11 contests. Rubio had 10 assists in the 4th quarter of Monday's game to tie a club record for assists in a quarter (Stephon Marbury, Pooh Richardson).


  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 17.5 points, on 52.9% shooting, and 9.9 rebounds in his last 22 games (12 double-doubles). He has pulled down at least one offensive board in 50 straight games, the 4th-longest active streak in the NBA (Kevin Love No. 1 at 75 games).


  • J.J. Barea is shooting 47.8% (43-for-90) in the last eight games. He is a team-leading +46 when on the floor this season.


  • The Wolves have forced 51 turnovers in the last two games, including 28 Portland miscues on Monday, a season high for a Wolves opponent.


  • San Antonio has won its last 10 games, and its overall record of 38-11 is the best record in the NBA, 1.5 games ahead of Oklahoma City. At 16-9, the Spurs have the best road record in the NBA. San Antonio is an NBA-best 20-1 against teams with a sub-.500 record; the only loss came at the New Orleans Hornets on Jan. 7.


  • The Spurs rank 4th in scoring (104.1 ppg), 2nd in field goal percentage (.487), 1st in assists (25.3 apg), and 2nd in points per game differential (+8.4).


  • Tony Parker has scored 20+ points 28 times this season, including seven of the last eight games, and 30+ six times. He has dished out 10+ assists in 13 games this year. Parker leads all guards in field goal percentage at 53.4%.


  • Tiago Splitter ranks 3rd in the NBA in field goal percentage at 59.9%. He has scored in double-digits in the last 12 games, averaging 14.0 ppg, on 65.7% (69-for-105) shooting, and 8.2 rebounds over that stretch.


  • Kawhi Leonard has scored in double-digits in five of the last six games, averaging 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds over that span.



  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.