The San Antonio Spurs played the Minnesota Timberwolves on Opening Night. What went down in this game?
San Antonio Spurs basketball arrived for the 2017-18 season. After nearly five months, the wait ended and the campaign for a sixth NBA championship kicked off. The new-look Minnesota Timberwolves was the opponent, so let’s look at what went down in the Alamo City.
The Spurs were scoring to start the game, but once Rudy Gay, Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili entered the game at the same time, they added an offensive punch that sparked the team. This trio probably won’t last when Leonard returns, but a co-sixth man thing with Gay and Mills can. Whether it’s for Dejounte Murray and Danny Green, Murray and Pau Gasol or another combination, these two can enter the game and drive up the in seconds. Mills and Ginobili did this on Wednesday night, but it just shows how much potential this bench has, especially when they get hot.
Need a sign that Gay is healthy? He slammed home a dunk on a two-on-one fastbreak and had no issue getting up. An awesome sign, to say the least, after rupturing his Achilles in January. Oh, and the Admiral was in the house.
Rudy Gay scores his first points for the @spurs & The Admiral approves!
?: ESPN pic.twitter.com/Zbbc8XLXey
— NBA (@NBA) October 19, 2017
Gay seemed to fit just fine, and only looked better as the game progressed. Making the prototypical extra pass (a Spurs trademark) was a start, while not dominating the ball and taking high-percentage shots.
Dejounte Murray was all over the place to start the game. He had an early bucket but was erratic with the ball and had two quick turnovers, leading to Timberwolves fastbreaks. After throwing down a nice one-handed slam it sparked his way, leading to a more disruptive version of the Washington product. The seven-foot wingspan and athleticism came into play and was tantalizing to watch.
If Murray can consistently hone his offensive game, look out. Don’t forget, he’s just 21-years-old, too. So, Game 1 was just a stepping stone.
Dejounte Murray has been outstanding defensivelyLong arms, fantastic speed and anticipation, locking Teague up and switching well
— Tom Petrini (@RealTomPetrini) October 19, 2017
No Kawhi Leonard meant there was always going to be a battle with the Minnesota Timberwolves wings, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins. These two, using their size, length and athleticism, had their way — mostly against Kyle Anderson. They combined for 15 points in the first quarter, finding little-to-no trouble in the lane and from 3-point range. This slipped in the second quarter for Butler, but Wiggins had himself a night.
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The former No. 1 overall pick can score. Well, yeah, but nobody could cover him. He torched Gay in the third quarter, a matchup that wasn’t exactly equal, for 12 points.
Let’s shift to an ode to LaMarcus Aldridge. Spurs fans wanted a more inspired version of the five-time All-Star, and man, did they get it. 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the first half for the big man who was all over the place. He found the “rhythm” he stressed in a mid-game, prerecorded interview with ESPN, hitting those trademark mid-range jumpers. Oh, and that putback dunk off the missed shot. Beautiful.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 19, 2017
The fourth quarter was tense. Minnesota, carrying over from the third, went on a 12-0 run to pull within two points (was 87-73). The differential dropped to one point, with nothing falling or looking close to easy for the Spurs. There were some horrendous possessions, and Aldridge even had struggles finding his rhythm. But, the Spurs locked down on defense and watched the ‘Wolves cool off.
A clutch 3-pointer from Danny Green pushed the lead back out, along with a much-needed dunk from Aldridge with 1:42 left. Two Gay free throws and one dagger three from Green later, and the win was secured, 107-99.
Big play, LA, big play. pic.twitter.com/zdp0eEpqvw
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 19, 2017
- Watching an inspired Aldridge play was awesome. He battled through the first half, and while he slowed down in the second, clutch plays were made in the final few minutes, including a last-minute basket. It was one game but a positive development for a player that finally looked comfortable, similar to the preseason.
- Murray will be a contributor for years to come. He quietly had 16 points and 5 rebounds, as his length and athleticism was on display on the other end of the floor. An early sign of a breakout season for the second-year pro.
- So far, so good for Gay on the Achilles. He found his way to the basket and looked like his old self. Defensively, he faced problems with Wiggins. Let’s see if Gregg Popovich finds a way to mask this once Leonard returns.
- Bryn Forbes, Derrick White and Brandon Paul all did not play on Wednesday night. Not a big surprise, as Popovich worked a 10-man rotation. It will take another injury and potential “DNP-Old” games for Ginobili before one of them gets extended minutes.
- I was ready to praise Butler and rave about his scoring performance … until he had just 4 points after the first quarter. Whether it was getting locked down or finding his shot, he disappeared and was hardly heard from.
The Spurs will face the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8:00 p.m. ET in Chicago, IL.