Losing to the Spurs in San Antonio isn’t a cause for alarm. They remain the class of the conference, significantly ahead of our developing Timberpups. However, tonight’s game was a little bit more winnable than the usual matchup with Team Popovich. The Spurs were without starting center Tiago Splitter and all-time great sixth man Manu Ginobili. Danny Green, the reliable three-and-D wing, injured his finger and did not play in the second half.
So with those opponent injuries taken into consideration, along with the Wolves unusually healthy state, (knocks on all of the wood) an 18-point loss is a bit disappointing.
The reason for the one-sided loss was clear: Kevin Martin and Kevin Love had off nights.
Love scored 14 points on 3-14 shooting. That’s 11.5 points under his average. I don’t know if the Spurs physical interior play bothered him, or if it was just an off night. Martin scored 6 points on 2-12 shooting. That’s 13.3 points under his average. The combined 24.8 under par that those gents shot tonight more than explains the result. If just one had an off night, the game would’ve been close. Had they both played up to their usual high standards, the Wolves may have won.
Some good things happened, despite the final score.
Nikola Pekovic continued his fantastic January play. Pek scored 22 points on 10-15 shooting. He had just 6 rebounds, but 5 of those were offensive. The small number of defensive boards was probably due to the Spurs making so many field goals. San Antonio shot 56.8 percent from the field — a number in large part due to overaggressive Wolves wing defense that allowed way too many backdoor cuts for layups — and missed only 32 shots. (The Wolves missed 60.) Of those 32, the Spurs only rebounded 7 of them. That’s a long way of saying Pek’s poor defensive rebounding stat line did not factor into the final result. He played a tremendous all-around game and is looking more and more deserving of an All-Star appearance.
Alexey Shved also played well. Like Pekovic, he’s playing better basketball of late. (Unlike Pekovic, Shved’s progress began from an abyss of sub-professional play.) Shved had 11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals. He shot 4-7 from the field which is about double his season percentage. (Let’s not even look it up. It’s not pretty.) I don’t know if the returns of Ronny Turiaf and Chase Budinger — each a stabilizing force for a reeling second unit in his respective ways — have helped get Shved playing harder and smarter, but I hope so. The flipside — that it’s a fluky stretch — is obviously not ideal. Shved’s under contract for one year after this one and when he plays well, the second unit is a plus instead of a major minus. They kept the Wolves in the game in the first half, when the starters not named Pekovic couldn’t get anything going.
There’s a favorable four-game schedule ahead. It starts Wednesday at Target Center against the Sacramento Kings. After that the Wolves travel to Toronto. After that they play Utah home and away. If they plan on making a serious push for a playoff spot, they need to cash in on the easier stretches of the schedule. With away games at Golden State and Portland following those four games, you can see why winning all four of them is ideal if not necessary.
Season Record: 18-19