It was a long, strange evening at Target Center. Coach Pops getting tee'd up, Madsen annoying the crap out of the great Tim Duncan, the refs making their presence known, the Wolves getting outscored by 21 in the fourth quarter. Needless to say, it was a wild one.
Let's start with the officiating. In a word, it was horrible. I'm not usually big on conspiracy theories, but the officiating helped the Spurs a whole lot more than it helped the Wolves. Yeah, there were plenty of iffy calls and non-calls on both sides, but you can't tell me that the officiating didn't prove to be an advantage for San Antonio.
I lost count of the times that Wittman simply threw his arms up in sheer awe of the officiating that was taking place. It was pure exasperation on Witt's part. The officiating was clearly discouraging for the Pups, and there just wasn't much he could do about it.
No, the officials didn't decide this one. That's not reasonable to suggest. They did, however, dictate the flow of the game.
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If this was a football game, Wittman would've run out of challenges by the end of the first quarter. At the end of the day, though, the officiating disparity isn't terribly shocking- as the defending champs, the Spurs command a lot more respect than the Pups do. It's unfortunate, but that's the reality of NBA officiating. The Wolves were called for 25 fouls; the Spurs were called for 13. The numbers speak for themselves.
Speaking of the Spurs, have you ever seen a bigger group of whiners? A bigger group of biotches? Every time we play the Spurs, I have to brace myself for the incessant b*tching that is sure to ensue...especially from Duncan and Ginobli.
I respect Duncan's ability. He's a great basketball player...no one's going to argue that. He's second-to-none when it comes to his mechanics in the post. But man, whenever he thinks he was fouled, or picks up a foul, he turns into a little girl. He gets this wide-eyed look, as if to say, "Who, me?!?" and then he inevitably starts complaining to the refs. Tim, you're great and all, but you DO pick up legitimate fouls, and you DON'T get fouled every time you have the ball. Stop your constant whining to the officials.
And Ginobli...oh man, do I dislike this guy. One of the most annoying players in the NBA, without question. He's constantly acting...every time someone makes contact with Ginobli, he always needs to over-dramatize things. I bet he was a real drama queen in high school...he should've made a cameo appearance in "Mean Girls."
Madsen did a great job on Duncan...someone in the forums said that Dog got under Timmy's skin, which is absolutely true. Timmy ended up getting a tech after getting frustrated at Madsen's rough defense...and Madsen was the bigger man in that case, simply walking away as Duncan vented to whoever would listen. I honestly can't remember the last time I praised Madsen, but tonight, he was simply phenomenal. Great defense on Duncan.
Looking at the plus/minus stats, the Wolves were a +12 with Madsen in the game. I honestly have no idea why he only played 13 minutes...yeah, he picked up four fouls, but this is Mad Dog we're talking about. Let the guy play until he fouls out.
Jaric left the game with an injured ankle, which proved to be costly. Bassy played well for most of the game, but things fell apart for him in the fourth...the Wolves really could've used Jaric when the Spurs were making their fourth quarter surge ("The Wolves really could've used Jaric." Nope, never thought I'd ever be saying that).
By the way, anyone ever see Jaric's yeah baby at a game? I was trying to spot her, but all I could see was Glen Taylor's creepy-looking wife. Seriously, she looks like every creepy old lady that's ever appeared in an episode of Scooby Doo.
As we've grown accustomed to, the Wolves entered the fourth quarter with a chance to win, but the game ended up getting away in that 5-7 minutes-to-go range in the fourth. Credit the Spurs, because they played extremely well in the fourth...the usually-excellent San Antonio ball movement was on full display, the perimeter jumpers that hadn't previously been falling started dropping for the Spurs, and Timmy wasn't harassed by Big Al nearly as much as when Madsen was guarding him.
Any time you lose a fourth quarter by a score of 32-11, a number of factors need to be at work. Yeah, the Spurs played extremely well, but that's just part of the story. The Wolves didn't execute on offense...too much standing around on the perimeter, not enough ball movement, no one was cutting, no movement without the ball, etc.
The Wolves played weak interior defense, and our effort on the defensive boards was horrible. The Spurs got endless second chances on the offensive glass. Piss poor perimeter defense, as well...time after time, we saw Bruce Bowen and Ginobli unguarded on the perimeter, and those scenarios never end well, do they?
You could blame the youth of this team for these late-game collapses. After all, the Wolves need to learn how to win these close games before they can start doing so on a consistent basis. You could also look at Foye's absence as part of the reason they keep melting down in the final minutes. You could blame a lack of talent for these collapses, or a lack of clutch players. You could blame a lack of execution down the stretch. You could also blame coaching- the rotations have generally been confusing, and Wittman needs to do more to address the poor execution that's occurring in 90% of these fourth quarters.
And you'd be right on all counts. Yes, fixing these fourth quarter woes is a rather daunting task, as so many different factors are at work.