Coming into Sunday’s match-up with the San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love was averaging 27.5 points, 12.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and shooting 50.5% from the field in his last 10 games.
After 32 minutes of being defended by Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner, and Jeff Ayres, Love’s night ended looking like this:
As Love finished with just 14 points, 7 rebounds, and shot 21%, it was the Spurs who held the Wolves to 86 points on the night in a 104-86 win for San Antonio led by Kawhi Leonard (17 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks) and five other Spurs who finished in double-figures scoring on the night.
In the first quarter, the Wolves’ starters kept pace with the Spurs starters of Diaw, Tim Duncan (15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks), Leonard, Danny Green (injured in the second quarter), and Tony Parker (14 points, 10 assists). The Spurs’ second unit would come in midway through the quarter to give some of the starters a boost for San Antonio as the Spurs’ lead increased to eight points. The Spurs led by seven points going into the second quarter. As Diaw and Bonner continued to limit Love in the first half, it was Nikola Pekovic, with 14 points in the first half, who kept the Wolves on pace with the Spurs as Minnesota came back to a take a momentarily two-point lead. The Spurs would respond and go into the second half with a 52-49 lead.
In the third quarter, it was the Spurs’ defense along with a strong offensive quarter from Duncan (11 points) and Leonard (9 points) that allowed the Spurs to outscore the Wolves 29-22 in those 12 minutes and take an 81-71 into the final quarter. Parker, Diaw, Leonard, and Marco Belinelli didn’t have to play in the fourth quarter, while Duncan only played two minutes in the quarter as the Spurs began to widen their gap with support from their bench. San Antonio had its best defensive quarter of the night in the fourth holding the Wolves to 15 points, as they took an 18-point lead and coasted to the victory.
Kawhi Leonard – Leonard finished the night shooting 8-of-11 from the field with Corey Brewer defending him a majority of the night. Leonard was scoring in the post, in transition, knocking down his outside shots, and even had two dunks on the night offensively. Defensively, he held Brewer to 2 points, on 1-of-5 shooting.
Tim Duncan – Offensively, Duncan made his mark in the third quarter where he scored 11 of his 14 points, but it was his passing and involvement in the motion offense that allowed him to create opportunities for his teammates.
Tony Parker – When the Wolves took their only lead of the game in the second quarter, it was Parker who put the Spurs on his back for a moment as he scored eight points in the quarter and allowed them to maintain their lead going into the half. Pakrer had his season high of 10 assists in the win, finding multiple teammates in both the half and open court. Sunday’s win was Parker’s first double-double of the season.
Matt Bonner – Along with helping Diaw and Ayres on the assignment of defending Love, Bonner had his 3-point shot going as he scored 14 points on the ngiht, 9 in the first half, and had this shot chart from the outside:
Marco Belinelli – In the three quarters that he played, Belinelli continued to show his ability to play efficient basketball on either the bench or as a starter as he played both spots with Green going down with an injury in the second quarter. Belinelli scored 6 of his 13 points in the second quarter alone by cutting and getting himself open for 3-point shots. Belinelli also helped hold Kevin Martin to 6 points on 2-of-12 shooting as seen by his shot chart below:
Nikola Pekovic – Pekovic was the lone Wolf who could find opportunities for himself to score as he finished with 22 points and 6 rebounds, while shooting 10-of-15 from the floor.
Diaw, Bonner, Ayres’ Defense on Love – Diaw, Bonner, and Ayres didn’t allow Love to get into his comfortable spots on the floor as evident by his just two 3-point attempts. Visually, you could see him getting frustrated at times as he would try to go and score in the paint, where he was met by multiple Spurs defenders and finished shooting 1-of-7 in the paint. Love finished with a -17 in the plus-minus rating system, and credit must be given to the Spurs’ big-man trio.
· Spurs dominate second half – In the second half, the Spurs outscored the Wolves 52-37. San Antonio also shot 55% from the floor in the second half while their defense held Minnesota to shooting 31%.
· Turnovers not an issue on hot shooting night – Despite their 20 turnovers for 16 Minnesota points, the Spurs were able to continue creating separation by shooting 57% from the floor on the night, as well as 9-of-13 from three. Against a minus .500 team like Minnesota who aren’t known for their defense, the spurs can still win despite a 20-turnoer night. But against a contender, the results may have looked much more different. Per the Spurs, “For the season San Antonio ranks first in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage and second in the league in overall field goal percentage.”
· Spurs’ bench soars – Despite not having Manu Ginobili, the Spurs’ bench outscored the Wolves bench 51-35 on the night and was responsible for 9 of the team 31 assists.
· Spurs’ defense dominant for 3 quarters – Aside from the second quarter, the Spurs held the Wolves to 21, 22, and 15 points in the first, third, and fourth quarters. Minnesota came in with an offensive rating of 110.1 points per 100 possessions in their last 10 games.
Manu Ginobili did not play in the match missing his second straight game due to a tight hamstring. Then, in the second quarter, Danny Green sprained his left index finger. The report post-game was Green would not be joining the team in New Orleans on Monday and will have an MRI conducted in San Antonio. Ginobili however, will travel with the team and may possibly play against the Pelicans.
After all the media reports, Green actually said the injury was to his hand and not his finger via his Twitter account:
It's my hand not my finger lol— Danny Green (@DGreen_14) January 13, 2014
On Monday, the Spurs will play in New Orleans against the Pelicans. The Spurs won the first matchup between the two teams earlier in the season.
Where they stand
Regular Season: 29-8 (Number 1 in the Western Conference)
10 points or more: 16-5
Vs. teams below .500: 18-1
Vs. the West: 18-6