San Antonio Spurs (12-7 ) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (8-10)
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Last game: Minnesota: W, 105-90 vs Dallas, San Antonio: W, 105-83
The Timberwolves beat Dallas Wednesday night, snapping the Mavericks four game winning streak. Dallas was without Dirk Nowitzki, but the Timberwolves showed determination grinding out a win against the Mavs. Kevin Love scored 30 points in his first game after signing a four year extension with the Wolves.
The Spurs administered a 22 point blowout to one of the best teams in the East, wiping out the Hawks 105-83. San Antonio’s bench outscored Atlanta’s 51-27, with Matt Bonner leading the Spurs in scoring with 17.
The Key Questions
#1. Now that his contract is settled, how will Kevin Love respond?
If early indications are to be believed, he will respond quite well. Love says that his contract discussions were weighing him down a little bit, which is kind of hard to believe, when you look at his numbers. 25 points per game? 13.7 rebounds? Those don’t sound like a player weighed down by anything. Is it possible he might take another step?
#2. What’s going on with Rubio’s shot?
Rubio’s shooting percentages have regressed in the past two games. Early in the season, Rubio was hitting on almost 50% of his shots. But in the last five games, Rubio is hitting only 28% of his field goals. The other troubling thing is that he’s taking more shots than before. Whether this is a result of the injuries all over or just Rubio trying to make more happen himself, it’s not helping much. And I believe it’s just a confidence thing. We’re starting to see him pass up wide open shots a lot more often but take contested runners off of P ‘n’ R’s a lot more.
If it is indeed just a confidence thing, he’ll get over it soon enough. And if it is just having a lack of weapons at his disposal due to the injury bug, that’ll be fixed soon too. All he needs to do is settle down and play his game.
#3. Will any of the injured make returns tonight?
Ah ha! We have some good news for you! Both Martell Webster and Brad Miller may make their season debuts tonight — I’m hearing Webster has a better shot than Miller, not to mention Miller’s services aren’t are prudent right now with Pekovic’s improved play. It’ll be nice to start seeing these pieces slowly make their way back onto the court, Webster in particular. It’s no secret that the Wolves have had trouble at the 2-guard all year and Webster should be able to help there. Webster is similar in size to Wes Johnson, who has struggled to fit at the 2 but Webster’s skill set suits that position much better. I wouldn’t expect much more than a few rotations for either player but it’s good to know that the Wolves may be at full strength pretty soon here.
The Key Matchups:
Kevin Love continues to play out his mind. With that said, does frugal Tim Duncan truly have a chance? I don’t really think so but it’ll be interesting to see him try. Last time these two played, Duncan found himself in early foul trouble, allowing Love to do his thing.
But don’t forget about the rest of the Spurs’ frontcourt. Dejuan Blair is one of those few men in the league that could outrebound Love on a given night, and Tiago Splitter has given them solid production off the bench all season long. Luckily, the Wolves frontcourt has been stout as of late, with Darko Milicic finally starting to figure things out and Nikola Pekovic giving scoring spurts when he’s on the floor.
The times are changin’; Once this matchup was looked at as a joke; the Wolves never had much of a chance going into the game. But with the Spurs growing older and the Wolves growing hotter, this game could be a lot closer than the past. The Wolves will need to get out to a hot start in the first quarter, I believe, to have a good chance but it’s very possibly after seeing what they did to Dallas on Wednesday.