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You Wouldn’t Like Him When He’s Angry

By Jeff Koch on December 14, 2013.

Minnesota 110, San Antonio 117

Kevin Love went ‘nova first (and brightest), but Ginobili, with a little help from Parker, went last.

After that Kevin Love 3rd quarter, I thought the Spurs were done for. He literally could not miss from 3 (to be fair, he did miss one in the quarter), the Spurs were playing lazy and sloppy and getting burned for it, and the Wolves had complete control of the game. Heading into the 4th, my one thought was: if the bench can get stem the tide and get the Spurs back into this game, then we have a chance.

Enter The Hulk Manu Ginobili. The opening set out of the 4th was some clever action to get Belinelli free for a three in the corner (swish). The next play was a nifty little back door cut along the baseline, Manu to Marco again. This is the Manu we’ve been watching all year: patient, clever with the ball, orchestrating the 2nd unit with a conductor’s deft touch.

But then we got a little angry Manu. He got aggressive, started driving the hole, looking for his shot, taking his 3s that are only good if they go in (which they are at a much higher rate this year). This was a vintage closer Manu performance. He was not going to let the Spurs lose. Of course, he’s had these notions in the past few years, but his body disallowed the heart’s desire. This is the key difference for Manu this season: he looks as spry as he’s looked in 6 years. His body is fresh, the team is demanding less of him, and he can come into a close and wild game and be the best player for the most important 12 minutes.

Another thing that’s changed in the last half decade? Tony Parker is now as clutch a player as you’ll find in the NBA. Between the two of them, nary a possession was wasted, and we came away with a good shot pretty much every time. Between the two they scored 28 of the Spurs’ 37 points in the final frame, and probably had a hand in the other 9 (Manu assisted on 5 points to Marco and a layup to Joseph, so there’s 7 already). When you have two creative ball handlers with deft shooting strokes and the ability to break down any defense, you’re bound to score 37 points in a quarter and win any shoot out, no matter who is on the other side.

That other side was mostly Kevin Love, who was going crazy. Until Professional Cooler Boris Diaw set his sights on him. Remember, Diaw played sneakily amazing defense on LeBron in the Finals, and always acquits himself well in high-profile one-on-one defensive assignments. Boris took away any free space around Love. Unable to shake free of him, Love was forced to take bad shots, or give the ball up, leading to the majority of the Wolves’ shots being taken by Rubio and Pekovic. That’s a win right there for San Antonio.

A smart man might have seen this coming, the worm turning for the Spurs at just the right moment. San Antonio was forcing the issue, driving to the rim over and over against the Wolves horrible interior defense. Even when some shots didn’t fall, the percentages favored them. The Wolves relied upon Love’s ability to make any 3-point shot he took, jump shots from a historically bad shooter, and fast break opportunities that the Spurs would eventually clean up.

A 16-point fourth quarter differential was the end result of this.

All of this, and we haven’t even mentioned Tim Duncan’s night: 12 pts, 14 rebs, 8 asts, 2 stls, and 3 blks. Ummm…yeah.

Manu? 20 pts, 9 asts, 4 rebs and a game-high (by a wide margin) +27 differential. In 25 minutes.

And now the team hops on a plane and flies to Utah for another game Saturday night. Luckily, the Jazz were also playing on the road Friday, so both teams will be playing back-to-backs. Utah is always a tough place to play, even with the Jazz’s poor start to the season. It’ll be interesting to see how Pop manages minutes and the game overall.

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