Final: GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves 110, Spurs 91
Final: That's a wrap, the Wolves just knocked off the Western Conference-leading Spurs 110-91 at Target Center. Really nice complete win against a title contender. Rubio finished with 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting, Love had 19 & 12, Brewer had 14, Gorgui had 12 & 15, Luc had 11 and Turiaf had 10. Diaw led the way for San Antonio with 13. Much more to come on Timberwolves.com tonight, so stay tuned. MIN 110, SAS 91
Q4 4:37: The Spurs keep grinding, but the Wolves are starting to hit some momentum-stopping shots that brought the lead back up to 18 with 4:37 left. Robbie Hummel got an ulta-friendly roll from 3-point land that gave the Wolves a much-needed spark, and then Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had a similar friendly roll that put the Wolves up 97-79. Not much time left, and the Wolves are bringing Rubio back in to manage the game. MIN 97, SAS 79
Q4 8:09: San Antonio is making its run, as it should, here with 8:09 left. They've cut the Wolves' lead to 17 and are stealing a little momentum away. Minnesota is still in control but will need to get the offense working a bit here to ride out this Spurs surge. MIN 89, SAS 72
End Q3: Minnesota is still rolling as we head to the fourth, punctuated by a 3-pointer from the wing by Love as he was fouled. He hit the free-throw for the four-point play, and despite a Spurs basket to end the quarter Minnesota still leads by 22 with 12 minutes left. Rubio has 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while Love has 17 & 11, Gorgui has 12 & 15 and Brewer has 14 points. Also, Manu Ginobili will not return with a left calf contusion. You'd imagine with the Spurs down by 22 and Pop's mentality on preserving his veterans we might not see Duncan for the rest of the night, either. We'll see how this plays out. MIN 85, SAS 63
Q3 2:29: It's impressive seeing Minnesota play like this against a Spurs team that seems destined for another deep postseason run. It makes you realize the talent this Wolves team has--even shorthanded--and the potential they could have if they are able to show more consistency next year. Tonight, they're playing like a playoff team. They are making good decisions in their pick-and-roll game, they're playing pretty stingy defense, owning the glass and have some hot shooting from a group of their starters. It's nice to see this type of play out of the Wolves in April as they put themselves in position to try and secure their 39th win of the year. MIN 75, SAS 52
Q3 6:22: If you're not watching tonight's game, you're missing something incredible as the Wolves opened up a 27-point lead on the Western Conference's top team early in the third. Ricky Rubio has 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting, Brewer has 14 on 5-of-8 and Gorgui has a double-double with 10 points and 13 boards. They're really taking control and being aggressive on both ends of the floor. Look no further than the drives to the hoop for two followed by steals on the San Antonio inbound passes. As I said earlier, the Wolves generally have played the Spurs tough under Rick Adelman. But this lead, which is currently at 24, is taking it to another level right now. MIN 69, SAS 45
Halftime: Overall, very nice half for the Wolves as they hold a 54-34 lead at the break. The Spurs are shooting just 34.9 percent at the half and are looking to get things going as we go to the third. Minnesota heads into the locker room up 20 thanks to a corner 3 by Brewer at the buzzer as the exclamation point. Brewer has 12, Rubio has 11 and Barea, Gorgui, and Love each have seven. Dieng also has 10 boards, and he's on his way to another double-double. Minnesota is shooting 20-of-47 from the fiel and really did some work in the paint at the end of the half. If I can find the lowest first-half score for the Spurs this year, I'll pass it along. This has to be close. MIN 54, SAS 34
Q2 6:20: Speaking of Mbah a Moute, he's playing some solid ball tonight offensively. He's 3-of-4 with six points right now, while Turiaf and Barea are adding four points each off the bench. MIN 37, SAS 27
Q2 8:20: Kawhi Leonard just did a little work, as usual, on the defensive end. He D'ed up Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, came up with the basketball and went coast-to-coast for the layup. That brings the Spurs to within 10 at 35-25. San Antonio has an 18-12 edge in the paint and a 9-4 edge in fast-break points. But hte Wolves still lead by double-digits. MIN 35, SAS 25
End Q1: Nice start overall for the Wolves, especially Rubio who heads into the second with nine. The question will be how long will the energy last, especially with the team being short-handed. Minnesota has notoriously had tough second and fourth quarters this season from time to time, and they'll need to fight through that against this consistent Spurs squad. The thing is the Wolves have played San Antonio very tough in three years under Rick Adelman, and if they do end up picking up a victory tonight they'd be 5-5 against the Spurs in the past three years. We'll see where this one goes as we get closer to the second half. MIN 27, SAS 19
Q1 2:03: Ricky Rubio has himself a 4-for-4 night going from the field. He's got nine points and a pair of assists early on. Brewer has six points, and Gorgui has five points and five rebounds. The Wolves are playing aggressive and ballooned their lead to as many as 12 moments ago. That came after a 9-0 run created some separation. Then, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute hit a runner and Corey Brewer collected a steal as the Spurs brought the ball up court. He scored & brought Minnesota's lead up to 12. The Spurs are cutting into that lead, now down nine. MIN 25, SAS 16
Q1 6:34: Both teams are shooting pretty well here in the early moments of the first. The Wolves are 4-of-8 from the field, and the Spurs are 5-of-11. Gorgui Dieng is currently at the line. He hit his first free throw of the night before this timeout and is heading back to the line for this second. He got the opportunity thanks to a three-quarter court inbound pass by Love after a Spurs field goal. Rubio has five early points, Brewer has four and Dieng has three. MIN 12, SAS 10
Spurs: PG-Cory Joseph, SG-Danny Green, SF-Kawhi Leonard, PF-Tim Duncan, C-Boris Diaw
Wolves: PG-Ricky RUbio, SG-Robbie Hummel, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-Kevin Love, C-Gorgui Dieng
PREGAME 6:45 PM: The Wolves are still deciding who will start at the 2-guard spot tonight as they're very short-handed in that area. Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger and Shabazz Muhammad are all out tonight, and that really only leaves starting J.J. Barea alongside Ricky Rubio in the back court or plugging in Robbie Hummel, Alexey Shved, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute or the newly-signed Othyus Jeffers.
Speaking of Othyus Jeffers, he was signed today with the team's 15th roster spot to help provide a little wing depth. They needed an extra man with so many injuries, and they had the spot available after waiving A.J. Price last week. Jeffers was with the team in Summer League and during the preseason this year, and he's excited to be back with the club after spending much of the team with the Iowa Energy of the D-League. He also spent a little time with the Spurs on a 10-day contract this spring.
Jeffers brings energy, intensity and solid perimeter defense. The Wolves will need it tonight against San Antonio.
"The organization knows what I can do," Jeffers said. "I'm here to lend a helping hand, glad to play defense. We're playing some tough teams, and let the organization know what more I can bring to the organizationa dn hopefully it pays off next season."
Jeffers was one of the final players cut from the Training Camp roster in October--the team elected to go with Hummel and Price. But Jeffers put up big numbers in the D-League, scoring 20.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. And from the Wolves' perspective, it helps knowing him from the preseason and what he can do within the team's system and sets.
"He was with us all camp and everything else--he's already been called up by San Antonio earlier," coach Rick Adelman said. "He's been around, and we know him. He'll compete if we need him to play. And so it made a lot of sense to get him."
The key to Jeffers' game is that he works hard, he's gratefull for the opportunity to help the team and he's a humble individual in the locker room. That's part of the reason the Wolves liked him so much in the preseason, and it's also a reason why the Spurs wanted him in late January. He played four games for San Antonio this season.
"He's a real guy--he's tough," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's not fake. He's really coachable. Great teammate, good defender."
As for the Wolves tonight, they've got to deal with a few things. One, they're short handed. They do have Kevin Love in the lineup, so that will help any situation. But they also need to deal with the Spurs' ability to adjust and adapt despite their own circumstances. Tony Parker won't play, but San Antonio has done a great job of plugging in Cory Joseph with the starting five and then relying on Patty Mills' play off the bench.
"You don't replace Tony Parker and the things he does," Adelman said. "But it's just not Joseph as much I don't think as Mills. Patty Mills, he's unbelievable. He comes in the game and he's different than Parker. He shoots the 3. he comes in to shoot the ball. They become a different team, and that's what's good about their system is they can change and adjust to the peopel who are actaully playing at that time. Parker's the one who gets them going, but they've just got a nice balance when their other guys come in."
PREGAME 1:45 PM: Welcome to Target Center, for the fourth to last Wolves home game of the season. They're taking on the San Antonio Spurs in unique fashion tonight, as this is a rare NBA makeup game stemming from the postponement in Mexico City in December. The Wolves and Spurs will tip off on Fox Sports North Plus and 830 WCCO-AM, but there are tickets still available if you'd like to come down and what should be an intriguing matchup.
As good as the Spurs have been for so very long, they've had some difficult matchups with the Timberwolves in the Rick Adelman era. Coming into tonight, the Wolves are 4-5 against the Spurs in three years under Adelman—in those three years, the Spurs have been to the Western Conference Finals twice, within 30 seconds of the NBA title last year and are the top seed in the West by a large margin heading into the final week of the 2013-14 regular season.
So how do they do it?
The Spurs have a rock-solid philosophy that starts with the grittiness of coach Gregg Popovich, the veteran production and leadership of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and the ever-abundant presence of young talent both in prominent roles as starters or reserves. No one better exemplifies that than Kawhi Leonard, who at 22 years old has become a player that this team already leans and will continue to do so for years to come.
Leonard was drafted 15th overall by the Pacers in 2011 and was shipped to San Antonio in an even-deal swap that included George Hill heading to the Pacers. I'd imagine pulling the trigger on a deal that sent Hill away was no easy task, but the risk-reward paid off in Leonard's ability to play two-way basketball. He fit the Spurs system perfectly, and each year he's become more and more of a prominent piece of San Antonio's success.
"Kawhi is steady, and as our group we are—he helps us like that," Ginobili said. "We were not like this four years ago, and he provided that type of play."
Look no further than San Antonio's recent record with and without him to see the difference he provides.
Leonard missed 14 games between Jan. 24 and Feb. 22, and the Spurs went 8-6 in that span. Since he returned on Feb. 26, San Antonio is 20-1—including a 19-game winning streak.
What makes him so special? Leonard is the type of player who will provide steady play on both ends of the court. He chips in his 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, but he also is so active and disruptive defensively. He's got the length and athleticism to do it, and he's got the motor to keep going throughout the game. He's the Spurs' "stopper" on defense—drawing the opponent's top wing offensive player each night—and you can bet he'll be defending that player for the duration of the ballgame whenever he's on the court.
"Every team needs someone like that," Ginobili said. "And we're lucky to have someone like him and that he's, 22? So you know, it's huge."
Popovich said Leonard's biggest asset is that defensive presence. He's been able to slide into that role and really complement the core veteran pieces simply by staying active and being consistent.
And given the veterans around him, he's been able to succeed without having too much pressure to do too much at this early stage of his career.
"To come in and have people like Manu, Timmy and Tony to learn from, it allows you the opportunity to let things sink in and you don't have to throw a whole lot at him at once," Popovich said. "So it's been a good situation for him."
The Spurs have won at least 61 percent of their games in each year since 1997-98, including 16 50-win seasons, four 60-win seasons, four NBA Finals appearances and three titles during that stretch. It's not a coincidence that they keep finding pieces like Leonard that fit so well into what they do each night.
They have the motor and the mindset to keep winning.
"We don’t take anything for granted," Ginobili said. "We go and compete every day. Sometimes it’s not easy. Sometimes the opponent plays better than you and you lose and you just shake their hands, but we’ve been very reliable this year and steady. So it’s been good."
Here are a few notes for tonight's game as we get set for tipoff:
· The Wolves trail in the series 27-73, and are 18-32 at home. The Spurs have won five of the last seven games in the series, including the two previous meetings this season: 117-110 in San Antonio on Dec. 13 and 104-86 in San Antonio on Jan. 12.
· With a 38-38 record the Wolves have a chance to finish at .500 or above for the first time since the 2004-05 season (44-38).
· The Wolves have tallied 30+ points in the first quarter a league-leading 33 times. Minnesota is 24-9 when scoring 30+ in the first quarter, 13-3 at home.
· Kevin Love needs 11 points to tie Kevin Garnett (1,883. 2002-03) for the 3rd-most points by a Wolves player in a season. He needs 31 points to tie Tony Campbell for 2nd place (1,903, 1989-90) and 115 points to tie Kevin Garnett (1,987, 2013-14) for the most points by a Wolves player in a single season.
· Gorgui Dieng has started nine of the last 12 games, averaging 12.0 points, on 59.8% (55-for-92) shooting, and 10.8 rebounds. He has five double-doubles in this span.
· Love leads the NBA in double-doubles (60), 20/10 games (48), 30/10 games (19) and 20/10/5 games (24). He ranks 4th in scoring (26.0 ppg), 3rd in rebounding (12.6 rpg) and 3rd in free throws made (474). Love is also averaging a career-high 4.4 assists -- the last players to average 26+ points, 12+ rebounds and 4+ assists over a full season were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob McAdoo in 1975-76.
· Ricky Rubio ranks 2nd in the NBA in steals (2.45 spg) and 4th in assists (8.6 apg). He has recorded 3+ steals in 35 games this season, the most such games in a season by a Wolves player. Rubio passed Stephon Marbury (1,393) for 4th on the Wolves' all-time assists list Friday at Miami.
· Rubio is averaging 15.0 points, on 44.7% (17-for-38) shooting, 10.3 assists and 2.7 steals per game over his last three games, including recording back-to-back double-doubles.
· Corey Brewer is averaging 13.4 points on 52.7% shooting over the last nine games, after averaging 7.4 ppg and 36.6% shooting in the previous five games. He ranks 11th in the NBA with 1.71 steals per game.
· At 60-17, San Antonio has the best record in the NBA, 4.5 games ahead of Oklahoma City. The Spurs have a chance to equal or best the franchise's best-ever record of 63-19 set in the 2005-06 season.
· This is the 17th consecutive season the Spurs (29-9) have had a winning road record. San Antonio had a 19-game overall winning streak snapped on April 3 at Oklahoma City.
· The Spurs rank 1st in the NBA this season in point differential at +8.5. (105.6 - 97.1). They rank 2nd in field goal percentage at 49.0%, 1st in three-point field goal percentage (40.0%) and 1st in assists (25.3).
· Individually, Marco Belinelli (5th, 44.0%) and Patty Mills (8th, 42.1%) rank in the Top 10 in the NBA in three-point shooting. Tim Duncan is 5th in blocked shots (1.89 bpg).
· The Spurs are 23-0 when Tiago Splitter has scored in double figures this season.