It’s been some time since Austin Daye played more than cleanup minutes for the San Antonio Spurs, so the Minnesota Timberwolves can be forgiven if they failed to include him in their scouting report.
Still, allowing a player–scouting report or not–to part your defense like Moses in the Red Sea and throw down anf uncontested dunk hardly seems like something that requires spelling out on the white board.
And yet, with a simple kick-out pass from Boris Diaw, Daye gave a shot fake to dismiss a lone rotating defender, driving all the way from the three-point line as the rest of the Timberwolves’ defense stood still and watched.
“They’re hard to guard. They know how to play, they know where they’re going to be before anyone else does,” Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. “I thought that we weren’t defending, I thought we were chasing for the first three quarters, just trying to find them.”
Daye was a surprising starter, filling in for an injured Marco Belinelli, recording a double-double with 22 points on 8-13 shooting and 10 rebounds to lead the Spurs to a 108-93 victory.
A host of injuries have depleted an already barren Timberwolves roster, leaving the young and inexperienced to fend for themselves. Though they have plenty of length and athleticism, young players often have trouble making one or two coordinated actions on any given defensive possession, making the Spurs offense a nightmare scenario for them.
Not that the Spurs had to run complex stuff.
There were pull-up three-pointers in transition, and alley-oop layups to Tim Duncan; Danny Green being the source of both, seemingly intent on discovering new ways for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to yell at him, only Minnesota’s defense was porous enough not to cooperate.
Six Spurs players scored in double digits, though given the competition it would be foolish to read too much into it.
Tim Duncan scored 13 points and six assists in 21 minutes, and over the past couple games Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has pulled back his minutes, taking him off that 35 minutes per game ledge Duncan flirted with in December.
Tony Parker played roughly 25 minutes, providing a few flashes of the quick point guard the Spurs have come to rely on, scoring 12 points to mark his first double digit game since returning from a hamstring injury.
He’s obviously not back in game form yet, but there was a particular play where a crossover created a driving lane that only Parker and a handful of other elite point guards could accelerate through and it was nice to see him finish the play.
Cory Joseph continued his solid play, scoring 12 points on eight shots, getting to the rim repeatedly. Patty Mills anchored the second unit, finding his three point range to provide 19 points off the bench.
With Manu Ginobili and Belinelli out, the Spurs used the Joseph-Mills pairing for 22 minutes, posting a NetRtg of 28.0 and ramping up the pace.
Tonight wasn’t about Daye breaking through, or the team finding answers about itself. It was about surviving an otherwise nondescript regular season night without injury. There are players the Spurs will not need in the playoffs, but sopping up minutes now holds value too.