Archives For San Antonio Spurs

LovePost

I’m not sure a game like this loss to the San Antonio Spurs is ever good, per se.

The Spurs established their dominance by playing exactly how they love to play. The Wolves never were able to take back control of the game or dictate their own style. While both teams like to move the ball up the floor and use brilliant decision-making and passing to put the defense on their heels, the Spurs do it in a much less chaotic style. The Wolves can play that structured tempo the Spurs love to throw at their opponents, but everything has to be clicking for the Wolves.

Things certainly weren’t clicking Sunday night, outside of Nikola Pekovic continuing his torrid affair with scoring the basketball and being a presence inside. Kevin Love couldn’t seem to find a way to hit a shot or get past the solid defender that is Boris Diaw (that’s not pejorative either; he’s become a defensive presence). Kevin Martin couldn’t finish inside and he couldn’t knock down a jumper. Corey Brewer looked lost on both ends of the floor as he was a non-factor on offense and he got destroyed by Kawhi Leonard on the other end. Ricky Rubio distributed well but just couldn’t have a big impact against Tony Parker.

So while this loss wasn’t good for the Wolves as I stated above, sometimes it’s a nice reminder of just how important each part of the system is, so you don’t lose sight of the value of each component.  Continue Reading…

This game had a lot of beautiful basketball. Midway through the third it erupted into play after play of move and countermove and this, honestly, should be what every basketball fan hopes the game can aspire to. Look at this layup by Kawhi Leonard:

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LOOK AT IT! Continue Reading…

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I would like to preface this post with the fact that I have full confidence in Rick Adelman’s coaching abilities, fully believe in his philosophies when it comes to basketball, and think his offensive system is superb. I will never pretend to know as much about basketball theory or even half of the practical applications of said theories in comparison to Rick Adelman.

The offense of the Minnesota Timberwolves is crucial. This isn’t so much basketball theory as an expectation of what’s in store for us this season. I’m not breaking any ground in telling you that the Wolves have to be good on offense. This isn’t news to anybody reading this site. The Wolves need to score points and we expect that they’ll need to score a lot of points in order to neutralize whatever shortcomings are there on defense. We felt this way going into last season. Points wouldn’t be the problem; defense would.

Turns out that was backwards but mostly due to an injury rash that turned into an injury flesh-eating bacteria. Kevin Love went down. Ricky Rubio came back but missed significant time while needing a month or two to get back to where he needed to be. Brandon Roy never materialized. Chase Budinger went down for the middle of the season with love handles on each side of that middle. Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko were sporadically banged up. The season fell apart before we could even see how it fit together.

And that’s why the offense of the Wolves is so crucial this year. I think we see frustration this early from Rick Adelman for two reasons: Continue Reading…

Spurs

Model and process.

The San Antonio Spurs are the model franchise for those places that have trouble attracting free agents to move their families to a less than desirable location. When I say less desirable, it’s in relative terms. It’s hard to equate our lives to those of an NBA player, whose lifestyle will always be a different world to us. When you have the opportunity to live in a lively city that also has complementary amazing weather or unmatched nightlife, that’s going to be more desirable for you as an NBA player. When you don’t have those luxuries, you have to have a core set of values that never get compromised. You have to possess a process to believe in.

This is how the San Antonio Spurs are and it makes me insanely jealous. It’s not even that they’re successful. Sure, it would be awesome if the Wolves had four championships or even one championship to look up at in the rafters of the Target Center, but what I’m envious of is the process for how they look to accomplish their goals for success. Continue Reading…

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I don’t know if you heard about it on MPR on the way to work like I did, but the Timberwolves were shocked last night to defeat “one of the best teams” in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs. Numerically speaking, it’s not even a matter of “one of” with the Spurs; even with last night’s loss they stand atop the Western Conference with the most wins in the NBA at 49-16.

But it’s a little more complicated than that. The Spurs actually have the second best win percentage behind the Eastern Conference’s top team, the Miami Heat (.754 vs. .774). So even by the numbers the definition of “best” is a little fuzzy and it only gets weirder from there. With Tony Parker sidelined with a sprained ankle and both Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard sitting with somewhat suspicious “sore left knees” last night, the Spurs weren’t putting their best team out there. And yet that exact thing might be what makes them “one of the best” teams in the NBA. Continue Reading…

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A pair of white and blue Nike Hyperdunks lie in front of Greg Stiemsma’s ice-wrapped legs in the Timberwolves’ locker room. The tongue is branded with a nickname: B. ROY in all caps. But this isn’t some handmade tribute; these shoes were made by Nike for Roy.

“He’s got a ton of them,” explains Stiemsma, nodding his head towards the locker where Roy hasn’t been since November 9 when he played his fifth game as a member of the Timberwolves and likely his last game as a pro. Roy isn’t using them, so he passed them along.

Another pair of the shoes stands in front of Nikola Pekovic’s locker, one of them knocked to the side and the B. ROY on each tongue blacked out with Sharpie. As he dresses, he answers questions. Are these Brandon’s shoes? “Yup.” You put the marker over them? “Yup.” His clipped responses carry some kind of weight, but it’s hard to tell just what. Continue Reading…

This one was not so fun.

Game six of the seven-game road trip looked like this team was just tired of being away from the Target Center. The energy was low, the effort was inadequate and the Wolves just seemed like they wanted out of there. I don’t really blame them. Not having Pekovic and Rubio has taken a toll on this team. The inside of the lane is a lot harder to patrol for the Wolves on both ends. The top of the defense is trying, but they’re just not the same without Rubio and his elastic wingspan deterring basic passes around the perimeter and into the post.

Gregg Popovich probably knew exactly how this game was going to go. Without Pekovic inside, he was going to make Love be a primary defender against the older but still effective Tim Duncan. If the Wolves fought back early, he’d probably unleash Manu and Parker drives all night. If not, he’d let Timmy break the will of Minnesota by showing them that even this old man could kick their butts on any given night. The Spurs had their perimeter attack waiting in the wings (no pun intended… okay, maybe it was a little intended) to unleash on a tired and road weary Wolves team. The Spurs are number one in the league in 3-point percentage and they’ll break your backs and runs with it.

In the end, the Wolves just were outmanned and out-energized for this game. One more Friday night in OKC before they get to come home and reacquaint themselves with home briefly. Grades after the jump. Continue Reading…

Photo by Rudy Burckhardt

It’s not so much that the Wolves have, for the first time in over a decade, beaten the Spurs twice in one year, or that they’ve done the same to the defending champs, or that they’ve won five out of their last seven. This is all great. But what’s really fascinated me is that they’ve managed to win in such routine fashion. This Spurs game, the wins over Sacramento and Detroit; these were just unremarkable mid-season NBA games, games that both teams had solid chances to win and that were resolved not by any miracle comeback or mythic displays of heroism, but simply by slight margins in effort and execution.

I’m aware that this is just what basketball teams do; these anonymous, unobserved wins happen all the time. It’s just slightly miraculous and bewildering that they are actually falling in the Wolves’ favor. (By the way, am I the only one bothered by the lingering anxiety that this could all come crashing suddenly down? Like that the Kevin Love/O.J. Mayo trade will be somehow rescinded, or that Ricky Rubio will be deported for committing identity fraud, or that Rick Adelman will suddenly decide that he needs to spend some time with his family?)

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When you’re surrounded, as I am at Wolves games, by two deadly smart, upper-echelon talkers, conversation tends to wander. At issue during Thursday night’s languid first half was the Cosby Show and it’s depiction of the African-American experience. Were Cliff and his brood a triumph of aspirational representation, a giant step forward from J.J. Walker’s grinning minstrelsy? Or were they a simple reflection of a naively “post-racial” liberal imagination, whistling around the complicated truths of blackness in America? Or both? And anyway why is it the job of every black cultural product to portray the full, complicated spectrum of the African-American experience? And isn’t this asking an awful lot of a sitcom?

Now I love those Huxtables dearly, but what has always gotten under my skin about the show is its eagerness to conform with the sterile, bourgeois fantasies of American success: appropriately upper-middle class professions; kids so charming they’ll hurt your teeth; serious property ownership; more late Louis Armstrong than Ornette Coleman. Again, asking a lot of a sitcom.

It’s just that I happen to prefer Ornette Coleman. And when it comes to the NBA, we can find the Huxtables’ ethos of vanilla success in the competent, businesslike way that the most powerful teams conduct their affairs–and the way the less powerful, but generally more interesting teams tend to aspire to that same bland ethos.

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There are lots of ways to lose to the San Antonio Spurs. You know this already. Tim Duncan might hit a buzzer-beating three. Manu Ginobili might perform a series of increasingly uncanny bodily contortions,  each ending with a basketball feathering through the hoop. That legendary defense might incrementally, unobtrusively increase its constriction, leaving you, at games end, suddenly suffocated and dry. The Wolves are getting to know these facts intimately: you might be called for a phantom three-point foul; you might be massively out-coached in the games waning moments. The list is endless.

But in all their years of monolithic fourth-quarter domination, not to mention relentless, bug-eyed ref-baiting, I swear I have never seen the Spurs draw five technical fouls on their opponent in the span of 30 seconds. But this happened on Tuesday night, in a fairly crucial moment of the third quarter, the Wolves having just pared a double-digit Spurs lead to six. And the best part: through some trick of alchemy or cold fusion or psychedelic imagination, two of those techs were called on two different Timberwolves simultaneously. By the same official! It was as if every subatomic particle of Stern-ian behavior modification became concentrated in Ken Mauer’s whistle in one decisive moment. At this very instant, somewhere in between Kurt Rambis being ejected for arguing said act of visionary officiating and Kevin Love getting t’d for slapping his hands together, this game entered an altered zone. Ginobili hit four consecutive free-throws. Bill Laimbeer was suddenly an NBA head-coach. The smiling, fired up Wolves embarked on a run of brazen, occasionally inspired play.

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