Spurs 108, Wolves 83: Ugly Offense (and great Spurs D) on Ugly Sweater Night


Tonight, the Spurs Spurs’d.

They displayed an impeccably pretty offense, passing the ball in Gregg Popovich’s fast-moving offense. On the best of nights, teams get lucky and are able to catch a few breaks. Tonight, the Wolves played good defense, especially in the first half, but the shots were still going down.

Through the first 36 minutes, the Wolves were able to keep it a mostly close game, but not before a big Spurs run that allowed them to go into cruise mode. The game may have been capped at the 6-minute mark of the 3rd quarter, when the Spurs displayed one of the finest exhibits of passing imaginable.

But what has made the Spurs especially dominant this year hasn’t been their offense. As fun as they are to watch on that end, they often make their opponent nearly unwatchable on the other end.

In fact, the 2015-16 Spurs, so far, have posted a historically great defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions), currently sitting at 94.7. Tonight, the Wolves shot just 41 percent from the field. The stats backed up the eye test on this one.

They displayed that type of dominance tonight in more ways than one. When the Wolves’ bigs would catch the ball on the high post, the Spurs would cut off all access to cutters and perimeter players going for the ball.

On the interior, the Wolves couldn’t do anything. Andrew Wiggins took the ball into the paint and got blocked several times, and shot 2/11.  There was a play or two that could have been called a foul in Wiggins’ favor, but most takes to the hoop were rejected, and rejected cleanly.

Karl-Anthony Towns’ first dose of Spurs majesty resulted in a 4/12 effort. As ugly as the Wolves’ offense looked most o fthe night, it was almost completely due to an unbelievable defensive effort by a top 2 team in the NBA.

Score-wise, this is the worst game of the year by far for the Wolves. It marks the first loss by more than 15 (and 20, and 25) points this season. Before tonight ,they were among the ranks of the Clippers, Warriors, and yes, the Spurs to have avoided a blowout loss.

This, of course, was to be expected to happen at some point, and many might have predicted that it would happen tonight. When the Wolves’ defense was tight, the Spurs’ offense was more in-sync. When the Wolves were able to execute a play on the perimeter, the Spurs would effectively collapse inside.

At the start of the second half, when the Spurs’ starting 5 allowed the Wolves to get the game back within single digits, Popovich brought in the entire bench, who got the game back in order. This, of course, meant the San Antonio starter returned into the game to annihilate the Wolves’ reserves, effectively putting the game into blowout mode.

The offense will get better, and if the defensive effort remains there, the wins will return to some degree. The Wolves are getting all the inspiration they need to improve, especially if Kevin Garnett keeps up the in-game talks like he did in tonight’s game. (Thanks to William Bohl for taking this dynamite vid).

Happy holidays, from all of us at A Wolf Among Wolves.

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5 Responsesso far.

  1. pyrrol says:

    Only saw parts of the game due to family stuff. I noticed Tyus Jones was playing. How did you guys think he looked? I was surprised to see him and curious about it–seemed odd.

    My friend told me that the Spurs never take Minnesota lightly even when we are perceived as bad. That’s both tough on us and a form of flattery. I get the feeling that one tiny piece of what makes the Spurs so great is that they treat every game as one they could lose and every team with respect.

    When I did catch the game we looked bad. Really bad. I get that we probably aren’t going to win this game. I get how incredible the Spurs’ defense is. I get how Popovich is one of the NBA’s best coaches ever. But man, we were so off our game. Wiggins’ takes seemed so weak and hesitant (this guy is supposed to be one of the best young athletes in the NBA!?). Rubio had 2 assists!? How is that possible in 25 minutes? Towns looked hesitant and lost. Bjelica looks like a derailed train that doesn’t even know where the tracks are anymore. This was ugly–too ugly for the talent we have. But we’ve been on a long underachieving streak now (youth as an excuse only goes so far).

    When I look at Leonard, I see what I want Wiggins to be, what I think he can be. A game like this makes me worry a bit more about that than I’m normally prone to.

    • gjk says:

      Tyus looked under control on offense and seemed to have some at least average scoring skills; his running of the team was unremarkable but better than LaVine. On defense, it was like he wasn’t even on the court.

      Well, as someone who watched all 48, it wasn’t a surprise how it turned out. Even though the Spurs don’t shoot as many 3s as they have in recent seasons, they obviously knew how to attack this defense, so the only variable was whether the shots would fall. And their defense is so fundamentally sound that it wasn’t a shock this offense would struggle. When this team had some success against the Spurs in the Adelman era (5-5 in 3 seasons where the Spurs won 9 playoff rounds), it was due to an advanced offense that made them have to move their feet defensively and guys having good games from 3. This offense was trying to run into or shoot long 2s over a brick wall.

      What the Spurs show is a combination of scheme and fundamentals. Their players understand where to be on both ends and play fast on offense; I think the first possession featured 3 screens on Rubio in under 10 seconds, and there was obviously that possession that was all over Vine and Twitter with the great ball movement. Fundamentally was where they shined, though; they got several blocks just by getting the ball early in the Wolves’ shooting motion, and their ground-bound players know how to get shots over shot blockers, set good screens, and beat a defender off the dribble. It was so frustrating to watch a slow, ground-bound player like Kyle Anderson beat guys off the dribble and then score at the rim. They show how important it is to get the details down in order to be great.

      • pyrrol says:

        Thanks for the info! It’s true that the Spurs exemplify ‘knowing how to play’. There are a lot of amazing athletes who don’t go anywhere because they don’t ever learn how to play. Having feel for the game and knowing what to do out there is as important as anything.

  2. sportsbygreg says:

    I didn’t see the game either but look at the box score and see who is the only guy who played for the Wolves (and 31 min. I may add) and finished with 0 rebounds. That seriously bugs me. The dude couldn’t even get a single freaking rebound. WOW! I guess he decided is he’s gonna help out by getting a few assists this game instead of his customary 0, asking him to get a rebound in 31 minutes is just asking way to much. The guy just doesnt get it, and frankly doesnt care. And I still can’t figure out his reluctance to play a very talented Shabbaz compared to Prince. Again, look at the box score. And from what I was told, he had Bazz riding the bench for most of the game and didn’t get any meaningful minutes. But he still managed 15 points. I realize Wiggins, LaVine and Bazz all can’t get big minutes at the same time on most nights, but then and again, how is Tayshun Prince getting 20 minutes. Look at his box score. And please, I do not need anyone telling me about his presence or defense or things that don’t show up in the box score. Where has that gotten the Wolves thus far? I’ll take youthful talent, energy and firepower over what I thought someone was like 10 years ago. I guess Bazz got punished for hustling and contributing last week. Seems like in Sam’s eyes he doesn’t want to much exuberant talent on the floor, that will mess up his lottery chances. The guy just doesn’t have a clue and couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag. I guess he says to himself: “why give meaningful minutes to a guy who was the top high school player in the nation his senior year in high school, and was developing into one of the best young talents in the league last season before his injury. Sam fools us with an occasional game of smart decisions. Those wise coaching games are proving to be nothing more than an abberation.

  3. sportsbygreg says:

    By the way, the over and under for Wiggins triple doubles in his career is “1”

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