I’m going to tackle tonight’s game bullet point style.
— First off, I’d like to start this piece with an ode to Bruce Bowen. I’ve already thanked you before but I don’t think that will suffice. I can’t tell you enough how much I appreciate your exuberant professionalism. Your defense, omnipresent. Your sense of humor, genuine. You dedicated so much time to the community and epitomized the ideal Spur. Thanks for everything, Bruce.
— Of course, you weren’t always appreciated. And that frustrates me to no end. I understand that his voracious defensive intensity was a turn off in a league idealized by athleticism. But, he was the best at his craft. The best. I think it’s a huge injustice that he didn’t win at least one Defensive Player of the Year award. Injustice. You won’t hear the end of it from me.
— One of my favorite quotes from the usually candid Bowen: “The best you can do is life is get back up and try again.”
— Another Bowen side note: When Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are ready to call it quits, I have no idea what I’ll do with myself. I’ll probably mourn their loss and cry inconsolably for a couple of weeks. I don’t even want to think about the end. It’s too painful.
— Now on to the game. Who else was psyched for Stephen Jackson’s (second) home debut? 16 points in 21:58 doesn’t sound too bad.
— Coach Gregg Popovich’s hand was forced tonight. Tony missed the entire second half with a tight hamstring (severity will be known tomorrow), Bonner DNP’d with back spasms and the Spurs dealt with foul trouble. DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter combined for eight personal fouls.
— Expanding on my last point; that created a lot of interesting small ball lineups. Not sure if Pop will continue to go with lineups like Parker-Neal-Green-Kawhi-Splitter when the team is fully healthy. Kawhi’s versatility — namely his elite rebounding ability that easily translates to the 4 — makes this an interesting proposition.
— Player of the game: I really wanted to cop out and say everyone. And you can make a legitimate case that almost every Spur contributed in a positive fashion. But, I’m giving this to Tim Duncan. In 24:19 of action, Duncan poured in 21 points, 15 rebounds (six offensive), four assists and a plus-13.
— J.J. Barea was a pest all night. If he was five inches taller, the casual NBA fan would hear more from him. His game is awkward in a Manu-like fashion. He’s a great finisher and he has a unique ability to get to the rim by merely twisting and contorting his tiny frame until he gets into a favorable position. He torched the Spurs for 18 points and 11 assists in 30:22. Can you believe the guy is only 6’0″ (and even that measurement is probably pushing it)?
— Not a great game for Kevin Love. He still posted a double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds) but he did so without shooting with his normal efficiency. To an extent, Kawhi and Jack seemed to fluster him down low.
— Gary Neal has improved a lot in pick-and-roll situations. He’s still prone to some indecision (he’s not a pure point guard, remember) but he has improved with his dribble penetration. Keep this in mind if the Spurs backup point guard plan doesn’t completely come to fruition.
— The Spurs took 95 shots tonight which tops their previous season high set against Houston on Jan. 21 and Dallas on Jan. 29.
— We were aggressive all night on the offensive rebounding which is a rarity for a team that preaches getting back on defense. Minnesota was clearly missing imposing force Nikola Pekovic (ankle). San Antonio racked up three offensive rebounds on the first possession and parlayed that into a final effort of 17 offensive rebounds. This marked the fifth time that the Spurs have totaled 15+ offensive rebounds this season. The Spurs are 3-2 in these games.
— The game was finished quickly and painlessly in two hours and five minutes. After yet another spry dunk from Timmy with about 10:34 in the first quarter, the Spurs never relinquished the lead. For that matter, they never even allowed Minnesota to tie the game up.
— The Spurs next game is Friday against the Dallas Mavericks at 7:30 CST.