San Antonio Spurs 107, Minnesota Timberwolves 101: Mike Budenholzer leads the Spurs back from 15
The last time the Spurs played the Timberwolves, Minnesota’s frontcourt completely out-muscled and out-hustled their San Antonio counterparts.Â After the three quarters, this game looked destined to follow the same course. Minnesota led the Spurs 86-71, Gregg Popovich had just been tossed for protesting a non-call, and Minnesota was beating San Antonio badly on the glass, when Coach Bud took the controls.
After three quarters the Timberwolves held a 46-24 rebound advantage over the Spurs, and they bested San Antonio 18-4 on the offensive glass. It’s hard to put it better than Tim Griffin did in his excellent game recap:
[Kevin] Love again hammered the Spurs inside, producing 25 points and a game-high 18 rebounds. The Spurs simply didnâ€™t have an answer for him inside, whether they tried to body him or push him outside. He helped spark an early run where the Timberwolves grabbed the first 10 rebounds of the game and cruised to a 59-37 rebounding edge that was the most one-sided by a Spurs opponent this season. Love has averaged 28.5 points and 20 rebounds against the Spurs in his two games against them this season.
But despite the poor rebounding totals and double digit deficit in the scoring column, Mike Budenholzer — standing in for the ejected Gregg Popovich — coached a smart final quarter that led the Spurs to victory. I want to key on a few of his more critical down-the-stretch coaching maneuvers.
I think the most important thing to say is Mike Budenholzer didn’t do anything stupid. That is, he wisely stuck to doing what the Spurs do, and, for that matter, what Gregg Popovich probably would have done.Â Someone with the Spurs once told me that Budenholzer might know the Spurs’ playbook better than anyone within the organization, including Gregg Popovich. Over the final quarter, Budenholzer looked comfortable in his skin, and he simply set up operational command within his comprehensive mastery of all things San Antonio.
To start, Coach Bud made all the right substitutions over the final 12 minutes. The best place on the Internet to visualize effective substitution patterns is the Popcorn Machine’s game flow charts. I direct your attention there.
In effort to provide both offense and rebounding, Budenholzer smartly opted for DeJuan Blair instead of Tiago Splitter at the start of the 4th quarter. Splitter had played relatively well to end the 3rd quarter. For example, he was involved in a perfectly executed baseline trap of Kevin Love near the end of the quarter. But Splitter neither offers the offensive punch nor the same rebound rate as Blair. Blair was the right choice.
DB gave the Spurs a crucial 4:28 blast to begin the 4th quarter. His contribution during this stint: two points, three rebounds (two offensive), one assist, one steal, +7. Blair also drew a foul on Darko Milicic. Darko would eventually foul out, and, given his recent record of Spurs slaying, this was all to the benefit of San Antonio.
Another smart Mike Budenholzer decision involved his rest substitutions for Hill and Ginobili.Â Hill, with the possible exception of Tim Duncan, was the best Spur on the court last night. Hill played 10:08 of the 4th quarter, but Budenholzer wisely found opportunity to rest Hill in the middle of the quarter, taking advantage of a Minnesota full timeout to extend Hill’s rest to five or six actual minutes. When Hill returned after the timeout, he produced six points, one rebound, and one steal for +14. But more importantly, Hill finished the game with an energy that the Spurs lacked over the initial three quarters.
After the game, Coach Budenholzer had this to say about Hill’s play:
I think his energy and his effort was unbelievable whether you compare him to Manu or just anybody. That loose ball he got out there near half court; it was phenomenal. I think everybody fed off of him and his defense and his effort and his playmaking. He made some big shots and he got to the rim. Popâ€™s always on him about being aggressive and more aggressive and more aggressive. Tonight, heâ€™s probably happy with him.
Budenholzer compares Hill’s energy to Manu Ginobili’s in the above quote. Ginobili did not shoot the ball well (1-10), be he did motor his way to the hoop for a perfect 13-13 from the line. After Hill’s short 4th quarter rest, Coach Bud put him into the game for Manu Ginobili, allowing Ginobili to collect a little wind before returning to help finish off the T-Wolves.
Ginobili played the opening 4:28 of the 4th quarter, but to little positive effect. No points, one assist, a foul and a turnover in that stint. With 5:13 left to play, Budenholzer went to a full timeout (further extending Ginobili’s rest) and then returned his best five players to the court to close the game: Parker, Ginobili, Hill, Jefferson and Duncan. Ginobili’s sixth and final stint of the game produced eight free throws, a rebound and a block.
In short, Budenholzer had the right players on the court at the right time. And was careful to ensure those players were well-rested for the final minutes of the game.
Moreover, Coach Bud called the right plays to close the contest. The most important of which was this beautiful play from the Popovich archives:
(Thanks, as always, to the assiduous Sebastian Pruiti for the video. You can see his frame by frame breakdown at NBA Playbook.)
And with that, Budenholzer and the Spurs capped off another unlikely comeback against the on-the-come-up Timberwolves.