Four months later, under far different circumstances, and in front of a relatively sparse crowd announced at 10,117, the game was finally played.
Tuesday’s game between the Timberwolves and San Antonio at Target Center was originally scheduled for Dec. 4 in Mexico City, an international experience that went sour when a malfunctioning generator filled the arena with smoke, sending both teams home early. So, all these weeks later?
“It was worth the wait,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said.
Getting contributions from just about everywhere the Wolves put a 110-91 pasting on the Spurs.
Kevin Love and Gorgui Dieng each had double-doubles. From Love, that’s not news. But from Dieng it’s an emerging story that added a chapter Tuesday, when he got the better of Spurs star Tim Duncan (10 points on 4-for-11 shooting).
“I dreamed of playing against those guys,” said Dieng, who didn’t shoot the ball terribly well but scored 12 points and got 15 rebounds. “Tim Duncan, he’s going to be a Hall of Famer. A great player. When I got the chance I didn’t want to let it go. Because you never know when you’ll get a chance again.”
Ricky Rubio scored 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting with seven assists. And he brought the whole menu, hitting pullup jumpers, attacking the rim, scoring on a lefthanded hook as he crossed the lane. He even attempted a floater.
“I was feeling it,” he said. “Today was really good, so I tried everything I had.”
The Wolves also got 14 points and four steals from Corey Brewer, double-figure scoring off the bench from Luc Mbah a Moute (11) and Ronny Turiaf (10). Never trailing, the Wolves led by eight after a quarter, by 20 at halftime and by as many as 28 in the third quarter while handing the Spurs their third-biggest defeat of the season.
The Spurs were led by Boris Diaw and Cory Joseph, who scored 13 points each.
Still, it was a far different competitive climate than in December, when both teams had much to play for. Now? The Spurs (60-18), who last week saw a 19-game winning streak end, are on the verge of clinching the top spot in the Western Conference while the Wolves (39-38) are already out of the playoff mix.
Yet it was an impressive victory for a Wolves team playing without injured starters Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin and reserves Chase Budinger and Shabazz Muhammad. After pledging to finish the season strong, the Wolves have won three of four, with those victories coming against San Antonio, Miami and Memphis.
“We want to finish the season strong,” said Love, who had 19 points — 10 in the third quarter — and 12 rebounds to go with four assists. “We want to go into the offseason feeling good, building for next year.”
Rubio’s 10 field goals were a career high. Love got his 61st double-double. The Wolves shot better than 45 percent, held the Spurs to 34 first-half points, holding the best three-point shooting team to 4-for-17 from behind the arc.
True, the Spurs were without Tony Parker, and they lost Manu Ginobili to a quad contusion during the game. But the Wolves were shorthanded, too.
“It’s a game that kind of set the tone for the rest of the week now,” Adelman said. “We have two more good teams coming here.”
The Wolves finish off a back-to-back Wednesday against Chicago, then play host to Houston on Friday before going on the road. Both the Bulls and Rockets are playoff teams, more opportunities to end a disappointing season on a brighter note.
Worth the wait, indeed.
“Well, I don’t know how it would have played [out] in Mexico,” Rubio said. “But I liked how it played here.”
• Faced with a rash of injuries, the Wolves signed guard/forward Othyus Jeffers for the rest of the season, and he got into Tuesday’s game.
“It feels great, it’s a humbling experience,” said Jeffers, who walked out of the locker room holding an iPad displaying Wolves plays. “I’m here to lend a helping hand, to play defense. Let the organization know what I can bring to the table. Hopefully it pans out for next season.”
Jeffers was with the Wolves during training camp, but spent most of the season with Iowa Energy of the D-League. Jeffers, 28, had previously signed a 10-year contract with the Spurs on Jan. 24. He averaged 20.9 points and 9.9 rebounds for the Energy.
• San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was asked if there was a secret to the Spurs’ consistent success. “Yes there is,” he said. “Get the No. 1 pick in the draft every 10 years, and make sure it’s a franchise player.” He was referring to David Robinson, the first overall pick in 1987, and Duncan, No. 1 in 1997. “Most anybody can build around that,” Popovich said.