The Margin: San Antonio Spurs 104, Minnesota Timberwolves 94

by

The San Antonio Spurs opened up their Rodeo Road Trip with a 104-94 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, their 11th consecutive victory. For those unfamiliar with this format, sometimes we like to mix our coverage up–the Margin being a bit pilfered from TrueHoop Network-turned-SI writer Rob Mahoney that consists of a thought for every point in the margin of victory:

  • Outside the Target Center in Minnesota the weather was frigid. Indoors the shooters proved to be not much warmer. Amidst a flurry of air-balled jump shots, Spurs guard Danny Green caught enough fire to help put the Timberwolves away late in the game. Green ran that gamut of his Icy Hot persona, picking up two quick fouls, air-balling a mid-range jumper, and drawing Popovich’s wrath while connecting on a career-high eight 3-pointers for 28 points.
  • Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were out, yet the Spurs hardly missed a beat. This thought deserves probably its own space, but the Spurs truly are a team built for the regular season, which I say in the most non-insulting way. The Spurs system is essentially plug-and-play, with management able to plug-in one cog as others go down. Over the course of a season the results do not sway wildly because above all execution remains the same. That’s not to say these Spurs aren’t built for the postseason, they’re just simply built to navigate 82 games better than any other team.
  • If the Spurs do have one indispensable piece it’s Tony Parker. His ability to collapse a defense is what the rest of the roster is built around and with Chris Paul hurt for an extended period, Parker has stepped in as possibly the best point guard in the NBA. While he didn’t come into the league with the innate feel for the passing game that Ricky Rubio is blessed with, he’s mastered the Spurs system to such a degree that he’s developed that sixth sense inherent in all special point guards.
  • Gary Neal continues his recent shooting slump, shooting 2-for-8 and missing all his 3-point attempts. With Ginobili out and Boris Diaw in the starting lineup, the second unit lacked much of its firepower and playmaking. Normally an area of strength, a diluted bench gave the Spurs some difficulties in gaining significant separation from the Timberwolves. Amongst the second unit only Nando De Colo (six assists) and Aron Baynes (paving the way for multiple Tony Parker drives with solid screen work) logged positives in the plus-minus department.
  • While Baynes sets some solid screens I haven’t seen it lead to a lot of opportunities rolling to the basket just yet. It’s a small sample size, and considering Minnesota frequently collapsed on the dive man (Splitter managed only five shots) it’s too soon to tell how Baynes will work in the pick-and-roll. However, he appeared more than willing and somewhat capable in playing a physical game with the Timberwolves living mountain — Nikola Pekovic.
  • Kawhi Leonard had a fantastic 19-point, 10-rebound performance. He’s showing more comfort in the one and two-dribble pull-up game, not unlike the elder version of Michael Finley. The footwork, balance, and follow through are all much more natural and consistent than displayed at the beginning of the season. Perhaps equally as promising  were the quick post move he made, and a multiple-move combination off the bounce that got him to the rim (though he failed to convert). The moves don’t have to be spectacular, since he will always supplement his scoring with a number of cuts, rebounds, 3-pointers, and points in transition. But every little step he takes raises his ceiling past anything we could have originally hoped for.
  • Nando De Colo is nowhere near the same league a playmaker as Ricky Rubio, yet the two share similar skill sets and weaknesses — just at different levels of play. Both blessed with a fantastic feel for the game, their true potential as playmakers will never fully develop until they become enough of a scoring threat that defenses respect the possibility of a shot. The Spurs made a few mistakes with overeager rotations out to Rubio, and the second year point guard took advantage of all of them. But despite a nice assist line, Rubio’s inability to present the defense with a threat bogged down the Timberwolves offense at times. That same problem holds true for De Colo.
  • When he’s in a slump Gary Neal becomes an easy target because there isn’t much to his game beyond scoring. His decision making as the primary ball handler is questionable at times, to say the least. His defense is wanting and his shot selection at times can make you cringe. But he continues to play simply because he’s potentially as potent a scorer as anyone off the Spurs bench. You have to get through some of the bad stuff to get to the good, which includes several comeback wins and early fourth quarters that put teams away for good thanks in part to his scoring binges.
  • Though there was no chance he was playing, Manu Ginobili suited up against Minnesota because he forgot to pack a sports coat, which sounds like a convenient excuse for a player trying to get into a game before coaches are ready for him to.
  • With three relative lightweights in the upcoming five games, judging the Rodeo Road Trip should be based off the quality of the team’s play, not necessarily the number of wins.
  • GoSpursGo

    Nando makes a ton of mistakes, and his defense is very suspect. But his court awareness and ability to find the open man makes him appear to me to be the player that the Spurs need to focus on developing (Leonard is already well on his way). De Colo could be a solid starting point guard if he could trust his shot and play average D

  • Spurs5thringthisyear

    We don’t need a “solid starting point guard” We need a decent back up point guard. Or have you forgotten about Parker? I think the Spurs are doing a good job developing players. Green was cut by the Cavs(The Cavs, of all teams) and now he’s doing well. Splitter has blossomed this year. Parker has been progressing every year. De Colo will be getting time to progress, we just won’t give him Tony Parker’s minutes because, well he’s not there yet. Also, when Neal’s shot goes in, he’s the most lethal scorer we have. He can make contested high degree of difficulty jumpers if he”s “in the zone”. I think you’re getting a bit too excited about Nando.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Sauer/645387978 Christopher Sauer

    Yes, to be honest, I think Cory Joseph & De Colo should switch spots right now. De Colo could benefit from playing time, and Joseph’s proved her deserves a shot. Unfortuantely, you have De Colo’s pesky french ego to deal with…

  • merkin

    I got ointment all over my tv.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=173600134 Ryan McShane

    I get the feeling the Spurs FO wants to give Joseph some consistency since last year he took 20+ trips between San Antonio and Austin. And De Colo does have that pesky french ego (AKA Tony Parker)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=173600134 Ryan McShane

    I think De Colo has the most potential of all of the backup PGs… to be a good PG. But Joseph has some good length and tenacity on D.

  • Tyler

    Pesky French ego? You mean confidence?

    And while I think Joseph can be an NBA player, he’s not nearly as big or gifted a passer as Nando and he doesn’t possess the creativity with the ball in his hands. As it stands right now, Nando is a better player and has more long-term potential in my opinion.

  • shg2k

    I think Patty Mills needs to be the permanent backup PG, while nando de colo shows glimpses of hope and promise, Mills is ready to contribute and is pretty confident with his shot which extends beyond the arc. Corey Joseph I believe came into this league too early outta college and while the kid is good we need someone who can effectively run the 2nd unit while parker rests

  • shg2k

    I think Neal needs to work on getting himself out of whatever slump he is in because it is affecting the team, I say give MIlls the backup spot.

  • Titletown99030507d

    I think your giving Baynes a little too much praise just yet. Zero points and zero rebounds? You make it seem he’s the saviour of the team when comes to the front court. He didn’t do anything better than Splitter has done on screens and rolling to the basket. You know the difference is Splitter was able to come away with 12 points and 7 rebounds in the 2nd half alone. He may have adjusted and thus succeeded doing what he set out to do after the first half. and Pop was hoping Baynes would get a high double double to justify sitting Splitter longer but that shit backfired on his ass. I think he’s trying to devalue Splitter’s free agency. Why not? They’d save money and wouldn’t that be conviennent. I don’t care what you say that was just too much sitting (no second quarter) for splitter last night. With Timmy out he should be damn getting 30+ minutes. Who else at this point is better? Diaw? No. Bonner? No. Blair? No. Baynes? No. Rest my case. Stop screwing with Tiago’s minutes. I hope we win the Trophy this season so Tiago can go get his payday somewhere else and be done with it. I’m sure Pop would love that.

  • http://twitter.com/blanchard48moh Jesse Blanchard

    You don’t need to be overprotective of Tiago. I didn’t really give Baynes credit for anything other than setting solid screens. He certainly doesn’t dive off them as we’ll as Tiago.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Not being protective just calling it the way I see it. And if you want to go there yes many under appreciate him. Its been going on since he got here Many expect him to be Duncan a HOF to be, and he isnt not even close. He has a skill set that this team utilizes and he does so well that now people have grown bored of it seems like and expect more now. Appreciate dont neglect.