Rubio's Triple-Double Leads Wolves Past Spurs, 107-83

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Wolves guard Ricky Rubio had flirted with triple-doubles over the past two weeks, snagging his often requisite double-digit points and assists while just coming short on his rebounding efforts. He’s come within three rebounds of that milestone in four of his last 11 games heading into Tuesday night.

And against the unlikeliest of opponents, Rubio got the job done.

Rubio was sensational in Minnesota’s 107-83 win over the San Antonio Spurs at Target Center, logging 21 points, 12 assists and 13 rebounds en route to his first career NBA triple-double. He dazzled with his normal passing flair but also was aggressive getting to the basket and snagged 12 defensive rebounds, all while helping Minnesota facilitate necessary ball movement against a championship-caliber defensive club.

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Wolves vs. Spurs

The win tied the largest margin of victory for the Wolves over the Spurs in team history. It ties their 112-88 victory on Feb. 23, 2002.

“I just try to be aggressive all the time, and stats are the last thing I watch,” Rubio said. “Victories are the most important thing.”

On Tuesday, he got both.

Yes, the Spurs played in Minnesota without the injured Tony Parker as well as Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard. But this San Antonio team has competed with the best in the league without even more of their best players out—see the Miami game earlier this year—and Tuesday night’s game was no exception. Danny Green, Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson are all capable scorers, and defensively this Spurs team is deep in its effectiveness.

But on this night, the Wolves were just a little bit better.

They parlayed a 34-13 run to end the first and into the second to take the lead, and they never looked back. They grabbed a 25-point lead in the third and built it to 29 in the fourth, all while shooting 53.7 percent from the floor and holding the Spurs to 17-of-58 shooting over the final three quarters.

The key on the offensive end was ball movement, led by Rubio and accentuated by J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved. Those two combined for 12 assists (seven by Shved) and spaced the floor with 3-point shooting that simply hasn’t been there for much of the 2012-13 season.

Minnesota entered tonight’s game shooting 29.3 percent from behind the arc as a team, but they exploded for 12-of-20 shooting from distance against San Antonio.

“That team, you can’t attack them,” coach Rick Adelman said. “That’s what we did the first 5-6 minutes. We just can’t come down with one pass and attack the middle. Pop’s teams always do a great job, they just swarm you when you do that. If you move them side to side and you get their defense moving around, now you have a chance to attack them.”

Barea and Shved each took advantage from the outside. Barea hit five 3-pointers on the night and finished with 17 points, while Shved broke out of his recent shooting slump and registered 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range.

Luke Ridnour kicked in 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, and Derrick Williams added 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field.

Center Chris Johnson made his presence felt, too. He had two alley-oop slams and finished with six points on the offensive end, but he also collected six rebounds and added six blocked shots to help protect the rim. One of those blocks, an authoritative swat that ricocheted off the back board turned into fast break points on the other end.

For the Spurs, Cory Joseph led the way in place of Parker with 15 points, while Stephen Jackson had 14 and Nando De Colo had 13. Manu Ginobili had an off night shooting 2-of-10 for seven points, and Danny Green—who shot 8-of-12 from 3-point range in February when the Spurs came to town—started out hot but finished with just 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting.

Johnson Postgame Interview

But the night belonged to Rubio, who might have shown those in attendance a glimpse of things to come with that triple-double. Although he attributes the team’s injury situation with part of the credit.

“When Kevin [Love] and Pek [Nikola Pekovic] are out, there are a lot of rebounds for us,” Rubio said. “So we have to take advantage of that.”

Adelman sees it differently.

“Not very many point guards get 12 defensive rebounds,” Adelman said. “We talked about the other night, how he tracks them down. He watches the ball, and a lot of times guards that have that mental aspect that they’re going to get it instead of waiting for the big guys to get it…he goes and gets it, and when he goes and gets it, he’s coming out on the dribble, which really helps us get into the open court.”

Barea said Rubio sets the tone for the team.

“He competes, no matter what he competes,” Barea said. “He motivates the rest of us, and everybody’s got to play like that.”

Leader of the Pack: Ricky Rubio

Rubio pretty much did it all on Tuesday night against San Antonio. He wrapped up his first career NBA triple-double with 21 points, 12 assists and 13 rebounds. He snagged 12 defensive rebounds, put together a collection of memorable passes—including the Play of the Game below—and helped facilitate Minnesota’s ball movement on a night in which it was imperative. “The ball movement was great, the activity was really good and obviously Ricky was terrific,” Adelman said. “He set the tone.”

Play of the Game

There were a myriad of big dunks and alley-oops tonight, a couple by Chris Johnson, but Rubio’s alley-oop hurl to Derrick Williams for the two-handed flush with 6:06 left in the third quarter was not only pretty but it was reminiscent of the tandem’s connection from their rookie seasons a year ago. It also put Rubio into double-digits in assists and ensured he would finish with at least a triple-double. He ended up going into double figures in rebounds later.

Numbers Game

  • Rubio recorded the 29th triple-double in Wolves history. It’s the first one since J.J. Barea’s 25-point, 10-rebound, 14-assist effort last March in Oklahoma City. It is also his first career professional triple-double. He recorded three—including a quadruple-double—while playing for Spain in the U16 Euro Championships. His last triple-double was Aug. 20, 2006 against Russia (51 points, 24 rebounds, 12 assists)

  • Minnesota shot 12-of-18 from 3-point range tonight, one game after shooting 2-for-18 against the Mavericks on Sunday.

  • The Wolves used a 34-13 run leading up to the 4:48 mark of the second quarter to turn a 21-9 deficit into a double-digit lead. They ended the first quarter alone on a 15-7 run to cut the lead to four.

  • Alexey Shved entered the game shooting 3-for-24 in his previous three games. He shot 6-of-8 for the night with 16 points, including 5-of-6 shooting in the first half.

  • Shved outscored the Spurs by himself in the second quarter by a 12-10 margin. He was more efficient, too. Shved shot 5-of-6 in the quarter, while the Spur shot 3-of-14.

  • The 10 points the Wolves allowed in the second quarter are tied for the fewest points Minnesota has allowed in a quarter this season.

  • Quotable

    “I don’t know where it came from, but I hope they didn’t use it all in one night.” — Wolves coach Rick Adelman on the team’s 3-point effort against the Spurs.

    Next Up

    Minnesota takes off tonight after the game and heads to Indianapolis in advance of their Wednesday night game against the Pacers. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM. They’ll have an off day on Thursday before facing Houston on Friday, and they return home for a matchup with New Orleans on Sunday.

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