Archives For San Antonio Spurs

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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"That's a lovely tie, Greg."

Sean Elliot has forgotten more about our fair sport than I’ll ever know. But he still makes me feel much smarter than I should. You see, former jocks who trade in their…well, jocks for headsets tend to fall into one of two categories: Those who are unable to articulate their wisdom and those who haven’t much wisdom to articulate. Elliot is definitely the latter.

Again, it’s not that the man hasn’t gleaned a nugget or two from his years between the lines, but much of his wisdom is conventional instead of personal. Nothing we haven’t heard before, just re purposed and repackaged in supposedly charming little anecdotes that encapsulate his employer’s greatness. Many of which show little regard for the truth, the opponent or the listener. It’s enough to make you long for Reggie Miller.

Upon returning from a second half commercial break, Sean began another of his syrupy soliloquies on the meaninglessness of statistical achievements. Specifically those in losing efforts. More specifically, Kevin Love’s double-double streak. “It hasn’t translated into victories. A lot of people put up numbers. Wins are far more important.”

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photo from musicstack

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Wolves put forth another valiant effort and the Spurs eked out another narrow victory in the game’s final minute.

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photo by saxuet

Blaming the refs usually is the last vestige of the clueless and a certain indicator of denial, but I have to say it. The Wolves was robbed. When Gary Neal kicks his leg out during follow through and clips Wesley Johnson, it shouldn’t be chalked up as a “rookie mistake” by Wes, but a bad call. It can’t be taken back, but it should at least be acknowledged.Right?

We all know that the NBA rule book is little more than a series of suggestions and those rules vary wildly dependent on the circumstance. Amongst others, there’s star calls, rookie calls and most notably last second calls (or non-calls). A rookie rewarded with three free throws after a desperate heave (on the road, no less) is unquestionably a deviation from the norm. Neal missed and the game should’ve essentially been over, along with San Antonio’s 11 game winning streak.

Instead, we got overtime and ten seconds into that, the Wolves was robbed again.

I can’t believe I’m even saying this given his play over the past few weeks-not to say anything of his play over the past several years-but if Darko Milicic doesn’t foul out of that game, Minnesota wins. Crazy, right? But don’t believe me, or your own lyin’ eyes, take it from a pro. I asked Greg Poppovich about Darko’s latest shocker postgame.

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