Wolves Drop Third Straight, Fall 106-88 To Spurs

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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The Timberwolves are well aware of where they’re at in the Western Conference standings, where they want to be at the end of the season and what they need to do to get there.

But after the Wolves dropped a 106-88 matchup with the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on Sunday night—the team’s third straight loss and another game in which Minnesota was within striking distance in the second half before its opponent pulled away—it’s becoming clearer that the Wolves need to make a move in the standing soon.

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Wolves at Spurs

“From here to All-Star Break is a big stretch for this team,” Wolves guard Luke Ridnour said. “There are guys out, but like I said it doesn’t matter. We have to still compete. We’re trying to make the playoffs, and this is a big part of the season.”

The Wolves dropped two games below .500 with the loss in San Antonio, a game in which Minnesota handled every run San Antonio made with a run of their own until the beginning of the fourth quarter.

When the Spurs (29-11) put together an 11-0 first half run, Minnesota cut the lead right back down to three with a stretch of their own. They battled thanks to stingy half-court defense and a 14 offensive rebounds. Eight different times the Spurs had a lead of seven points or more in the first half, and each time the Wolves trimmed it down. Minnesota trailed by five at the half.

Postgame: Wolves coach Terry Porter

“First quarters you can tell right from the beginning of the game, almost every game…we are sharing as a team, sharing the ball, always up 10-15 points from the beginning,” forward Andrei Kirilenko said. “But then I don’t know, we’re tired, we start losing focus, we stop playing execution. We try to beat your man one-on-one. We’re losing the pace, and we have to work on this.” The biggest trouble for Minnesota (16-18) came in the paint and in transition on this night. San Antonio held a 54-34 advantage in the paint—a part of the stat sheet in which Minnesota normally leads or is close to even—and the Spurs held a 32-10 edge in fast-break points.

It was a constant effort from the Spurs regardless of who was in the game. When the starters were in, Tony Parker paced the team with his speed and penetration. When the bench came in, they held onto the pace. Manu Ginobili had 12 quick points off the bench early before leaving the game late in the second with a strained left hamstring, and in the second half Gary Neal was a force. He scored 13 of his 15 points in the final two quarters and finished the game 3-for-3 from 3-point range.

Postgame: Wolves guard Luke Ridnour

“Their bench is leading the league in scoring, so you can expect when their bench steps on the floor that their bench will build on leads or get them back into the games,” coach Terry Porter said. “They knocked down shots, and like I said we couldn’t knock down shots. They did a good job with their energy, getting some opportunities for them and getting them back into rhythm.”

The Wolves got 14 points from Nikola Pekovic, 13 points and six assists from Ridnour, 11 points from Dante Cunningham and 10 from Greg Stiemsma, who shot 4-of-6 from the field. Kirilenko led the team with 11 rebounds, including four on the offensive end.

For the Spurs, Parker led all scorers with 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting. When he wanted to get to the basket, he got there efficiently. Tim Duncan chased a triple-double with 12 points, nine assists and seven blocks on the night, and Tiago Splitter added 10 points.

Leader of the Pack: J.J. Barea

Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea made his return to the lineup against the Spurs after missing the first two games of the road trip with back spasms. He returned and led the team with 15 points off the bench on 4-of-11 shooting, including a first-half 3-pointer and six assists. He continues to be a factor off the bench thanks to his energy, and he showed his fearlessness driving to the lane time and time again tonight. He led the team in trips to the free-throw line and finished 6-of-6 from the stripe.

Highlight of the Night

Early in the second quarter with the Wolves trailing by seven, Wolves forward Derrick Williams came off the bench and recorded the play of the game. He took a pass from J.J. Barea, faked a 3-pointer, drove to the basket and threw down an emphatic one-handed jam on DeJuan Blair. Williams couldn’t help but smile when he ran down to the other end of the court after that slam.

The Numbers Game

  • The San Antonio Spurs have now won 12 games in a row at home and are 16-2 at AT&T Center this season.

  • The Timberwolves owned the offensive glass on Sunday, doubling up the Spurs with 14 offensive rebounds. But the Spurs finished the game with a 43-36 edge on the boards.

  • Minnesota went cold at an inopportune time in San Antonio. The Wolves trailed 78-71 heading into the fourth, but over the final 12 minutes they shot 6-of-27 from the field (22.2 percent) and got to the line just five times. They shot 0-for-4 form 3-point range. On the flip side, the Spurs got hot in the fourth—shooting 57.9 percent in the final frame (11-of-19). They hit 4-of-7 3-pointers in the fourth, and they held an 8-0 advantage in fast-break points.

  • The Wolves shot 8-of-12 to start the game and opened up play with a 16-7 lead midway through the first quarter.

  • Quotable

    “I’m tired of hearing that. Guys out, so what? Everyone’s got guys out. We have to find a way to win a game. Whether guys are in our out, we still have to play 48 minutes. We’re all professionals. We have to find a way to get a win.” —Wolves guard Luke Ridnour on battling Wolves battling injuries

    Next Up

    Minnesota wraps up this four-game road trip with a back-to-back in Dallas on Monday night at American Airlines Center. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. They’ll return home for a Thursday night game against the Los Angeles Clippers and a Saturday night game against the Houston Rockets before hitting the road against Atlanta on Monday.

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