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.
— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) December 24, 2015
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.