SAN ANTONIO – While he soaked his feet in ice, Timberwolves star Kevin Love crumpled up a stat sheet after Friday’s 117-110 loss at San Antonio and tossed it across the locker room toward teammate J.J. Barea.
Like just about everything else he aimed that night, it sailed true through the room but this one veered away from its target wide left at the very end.
It was only the second three-pointer he’d miss all night.
Love might have kept that memento un-crumpled and un-tossed if it hadn’t been for the Spurs’ tag-team scoring tandem of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who combined for 28 points in a fourth quarter when San Antonio erased both a nine-point deficit and the impact of Love’s 42-point, 14-rebound night.
“If things had turned out differently, yeah,” he said about the difference between a souvenir and scrap paper.
Nine days after the two teams were scheduled for a game in Mexico City, the Wolves and Spurs finally played Friday on a night that was worth the wait, both because of Love’s sheet efficiency and the combined fourth-quarter relentlessness displayed by Parker and Ginobili.
Love made his first seven three-point shots Friday and finished 8-for-9 from that distance. His startlingly productive third quarter – even by his high standards – put the Wolves in position to win and move back above .500 for the season until Parker and Ginobili took it all back when they were as good together in the fourth quarter as Love was all by himself in the third.
Love scored 19 points on 5-for-6 three-point shooting in that third quarter alone and had already recorded a 35-point, 12-rebound double-double by the time the Wolves took an 89-80 lead into those final 12 minutes.
“It’s a shame to waste a game like that,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said about a performance that inspired Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call Love a “monster” afterward.
Popovich sent big Boris Diaw onto the AT&T Center floor when Love returned for the final nine minutes, presumably with instructions not to leave Love’s side. He scored seven points the rest of the way while the Spurs’ defense challenged Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic in particular to beat them and the Wolves had no counter for Parker’s pick-and-roll attacks at the basket and Ginobili’s scoring both inside and outside.
“When Pop tells them to do something like that, they’re going to execute it because that’s just what they do,” Love said, referring to the fourth-quarter defense played against him. “They really, really execute.”
At the other end, Parker and Ginobili exposed the Wolves’ lack of a shot blocker on a night when the Wolves’ best on-ball defender (Luc Mbah a Moute) sat for the final nine minutes while Adelman tried Corey Brewer against Parker and Rubio against Ginobili.
“We’ve been playing with each other for a long time,” said Parker, referring to himself, Ginobili and Tim Duncan after he finished with 29 points. “It was just one of those quarters where we all stepped up.”
They needed to do so after Love’s first three quarters, and the third quarter in particular.
“There are certain nights when you just feel it,” Love said. “I was just hoping it’d be for a win. That was a little disheartening, but they’ve got a few Hall of Famers on their team and a Hall of Fame coach. When you get them into a two-, three-minute game, they’re incredible. We’re going to get better in stretches like that. They’ve played together a very long time and they just make plays.
“If we play like that, we’re going to beat a lot of teams. They just happen to be a top 3 or 4 team in the entire league.”