We can live with Tony Parker’s 20 points and 6 assists. Manu Ginobili’s 12 points and 5 dimes. Timmy’s 12, 9 and 5. Hell, even his 3 steals and 7 blocks. But the problem with tonight’s game was that Manu only played 12 minutes because of a pulled hamstring shortly before halftime, and with the Spurs shorthanded, Parker and Duncan were both able to be limited to 29 minutes of action.
That’s because, after Parker and Duncan went to the bench for a rest at the end of the 3rd Quarter (Spurs leading by 7), the Wolves got thumped by San Antonio’s short-handed second unit. The three-headed monster of Gary Neal, Stephen Jackson and Tiago Splitter led a dominant 4th Quarter that the Spurs won 28-17. Parker and Duncan iced their knees on the sidelines (just as we feared might happen), this time without Gregg Popovich’s company. Pop drew a quick double-tech and was sent to the showers with his team leading by 13 early in the fourth. Maybe he had dinner plans and wanted to beat traffic. Who knows. In any case, the Spurs won by 18 and dominated long stretches of this game. A few things that should give fans cause for alarm:
* Alexey Shved is losing his shooting touch. He went 0 for 7 tonight, just four games after his 1 for 11 stinker against Portland. His field goal percentage dropped to 38.7 after tonight’s game. If the Wolves are going to entertain the idea of a .500 record (let alone a playoff appearance) he needs to provide consistent shooting. We know that it isn’t coming from Ricky Rubio, and probably not Andrei Kirilenko either. The team lacks shooters something fierce and Shved needs to be one.
* Derrick Williams continues to miss shots at the rim. He was 3-9 from the floor tonight, and at least a couple of those were of the point-blank miss variety. He had a huge dunk in the first half that got Twitter buzzing a little bit, but until he can make layups at the rate far-less-athletic Andrei Kirilenko can, D-Thrill will have his minutes cut. He only played 24 tonight. This is in Kevin Love’s absence. Think about that.
* Speaking of missing shots, Ricky Rubio is doing that. A lot of that. He’s now shooting 18 percent from the floor. (!!!) (!!!) (!!!) I’m not sure what else to say. Ricky’s brilliance has nothing to do with shooting, but he can’t shoot 18 percent and expect to make a positive impact. Not with any sort of consistency. Ricky was a game-worst -24 tonight. He missed all 6 of his field goal attempts.
* There is a cliff that the Wolves fall off of when Nikola Pekovic checks out of the game, and Greg Stiemsma checks in. Against Oklahoma City, the Wolves were a -3 with Pek on the floor; essentially playing the Thunder to even basketball. When Stiemer was on the floor for just 13 minutes, they were a -12. Tonight, against another Western Conference Finalist, the Wolves were again -3 with Pek. This time, they were -15 with Stiemer in 19 minutes of action. I don’t know if Pekovic is being bothered by an injury, or why his minutes are somewhat limited, but the team suffers when he’s off the floor and Stiemsma is on it.
That’s it for tonight. Rough loss, and a game the Wolves could have stolen after the Ginobili injury in the 2nd Quarter. Tomorrow’s opponent is weaker than tonight’s, but they have Dirk back in the lineup and just blew out a strong Memphis Grizzlies game, so the Mavs are no picnic. Until then.
Season Record: 16-18