MEMPHIS, TENN. – Statistically speaking, the Timberwolves’ 117-110 defeat at San Antonio on Friday night was just another mark in the NBA standings’ loss column, a number that’s now 12 and counting here in the season’s opening six weeks.
Someday not all that long from now, it could be remembered as the kind of night much more damning when Timberwolves star Kevin Love contemplates his contract opt-out clause in summer 2015.
Love tied Stephon Marbury’s 16-year-old franchise record for three-pointers made in a game with eight, five of them in Friday’s third quarter alone, and he needed only nine three-point attempts to make those eight.
Ridiculously efficient even by his high standards, Love finished with 42 points, 35 of them through three quarters before the Spurs’ defense corrected what coach Gregg Popovich called “fundamental errors” made defending Love until the game’s nine minutes.
That’s when Popovich put big Boris Diaw on Love with strict instructions not to leave his side and challenged anybody else on the Wolves to beat his Spurs. Nobody else did.
“It’s a shame to waste a game like that,” Adelman said, probably echoing Wolves fans who watched such a display back home, “that you don’t get the win.”
The Spurs’ defense limited Love to five fourth-quarter shots and Kevin Martin to one. Both Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio had their chances in the final three minutes, but they and the Wolves’ offense went cold, getting outscored 12-2 to end the game.
At the floor’s other end, the Wolves couldn’t defend the Spurs’ offensive tag-team of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili on pick-and-roll plays and had no shot blocker to provide protection when each player, particularly Parker, got to the rim seemingly at will. Together, those two trumped Love’s fifth career 40-point game by scoring 28 points by themselves in the fourth quarter. That was seven more than all the Wolves together managed.
For the night, sixth man Ginobili by himself outscored the Wolves’ bench 20-12, and the Spurs’ reserves outscored their counterparts 55-12.
That’s probably not the kind of help — and hope — Love envisioned when he created that fuss about this time last year with that Yahoo!Sports interview. You remember, the one in which he reminded everybody — including Wolves management, since reconstructed — how much work still must be done to convince him to stay with a real chance to win in Minnesota beyond 2015.
Afterward, Adelman and Popovich marveled at Love’s offensive efficiency.
“Just making shot after shot,” Adelman said, “and threes.”
Popovich called Love a “great player” who can produce both inside and outside and he added, of course, that his team could have done a better job defending him.
“But be that as it may, he is a monster,” Popovich said.
Love sat at his locker afterward, running his hands through his hair and telling himself out loud how the Spurs’ foundation of Parker, Ginobili and Tim Duncan have played together for more than a decade and how “if we play like that, we’re going to beat a lot of teams” on nights when the Wolves aren’t facing Hall of Fame players and a Hall of Fame coach.
He sounded wistful when he spoke of the Spurs’ talent and methods.
“What they wanted to do is make other guys make plays,” he said, referring to the night’s fourth-quarter reversal. “Ricky stepped up, Pek hit a few shots. They were making sure I wasn’t getting any open looks. When Pop tells them to do something like that, they’re going to execute it because that’s just what they do: They really, really execute.”