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.