Late Surge, Strong Defense Helps Wolves Past Spurs 87-79

Late Surge, Strong Defense Helps Wolves Past Spurs 87-79

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Kevin Love had a certain tone in his voice after Friday’s 87-79 win over the San Antonio Spurs—a flair that indicates a belief the Timberwolves are currently feeling in themselves on the court.

During Friday’s win, the Wolves looked the part of the aggressor in the fourth quarter. Minnesota not only put the game away late with clutch free throws and drives to the lane, but they played clutch defense—holding the Spurs to 2-for-11 shooting in the final seven minutes of the game.

“We’re confident—real confident,” Love said. “No matter what happens.”

The fourth quarter poise on both ends of the floor is becoming more and more noticeable each game for the Wolves, who did the same thing in Wednesday’s win over Dallas. Coach Rick Adelman has preached defense, rebounding and taking care of the basketball all season, and in the Wolves’ two-game winning streak all three have been on display.

Minnesota (9-10) protected the ball in the second half, only turning the ball over twice after halftime.

“Our guys are really locked in,” Adelman said. “They’re really trying to do what we ask them to do defensively. We talked about winning close games against good teams, you’ve got to be solid. You’ve got to be disciplined and follow the game plan.”

Minnesota did just that on Friday.

They established a presence in the paint early on thanks to Love’s reliable nightly play and the emergence of center Nikola Pekovic, who got the start as Darko Milicic was scratched due to illness. Pekovic filled in admirably, collecting his second career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds on the night.

The two paved the way to holding San Antonio (12-8) to two offensive rebounds on the night, a new Timberwolves franchise record.

Pekovic used his 6-foot-11, 290-pound frame to gain position, and it yielded offensive production throughout the contest. With the Wolves down 42-41 at halftime, Pekovic stepped up in the third and took charge with eight points in the first four minutes of the third to bolster a 15-4 Wolves run.

Adelman said Pekovic doesn’t try too much; instead, he stays within his strength and plays aggressive. Love simply said, “We’re happy to have the Eastern Block on our side.”

But Pekovic said the part of the night he’s most proud of was on the defensive end. The Wolves stifled the Spurs late in the contest, and throughout the game Pekovic helped contain Tim Duncan to just 2-of-12 shooting on the night.

“I’m just trying to help our team every time,” Pekovic said.

Love put together another double-double on Friday, posting 18 points and 16 rebounds and helping ice the game with two baskets in the final 1:30.

Guard Ricky Rubio again left his mark, hitting two free throws to tie the game at 79-79 and adding a pull-up jumper with 2:42 to play that gave the Wolves the lead for good. He finished with 18 points and 10 assists—his eighth double-double of the season. He’s one point-assist double-double behind Deron Williams for the league lead.

Derrick Williams added 12 points on the night, including six points in a two-minute span midway through the fourth that helped extend the Wolves lead to 75-71.

Forward Michael Beasley returned after missing 11 games with a foot injury, and he finished the night with seven points off the bench. Martell Webster played his first game of the season since undergoing back surgery in September, and he finished with three points on 1-of-3 shooting. His lone field goal was a 3-pointer in the first half.

Tony Parker led the way for the Spurs, finishing with 20 points but only producing three assists—he averaged 8.1 coming into the contest. Richard Jefferson scored eight of his 10 points in the first, Matt Bonner finished with 13 points and Tiago Splitter had 12 points. Duncan finished with nine points and 10 boards.

The Wolves have won two straight against the Spurs after losing 16 consecutive games to San Antonio. That new trend of believing—and winning—is what continues to give Love and the Timberwolves confidence.

“We can get down by 3-4-5 points; we can be down by double-digits, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We continue to keep getting better in second halves of games. We’ve got to continue to keep getting better.”

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