It’s hard to get excited about a February game in Minnesota, but it’s important for two reasons: first, it marks the beginning of the 9-game Rodeo Road Trip, after which, the Spurs will finish 17 of the last 24 games at home; and second, Timmy will almost certainly not play the first part of the RRT. The significance is that the if Spurs, already with the best record in the league, can come out of this road-heavy, Timmy-less stretch with a solid record, it makes the race toward a top 2 seed a lot easier in the stretch run. So, Minnesota in February matters just as much as OKC will in April. Ok, not quite as much. But close.
1. Song of the Game: The Dandy Warhols, “Minnesoter”
You’ve heard me voice ad nauseum about my love for the Warhols, so I won’t rehash all of that. Suffice to say, it’s one of the most unique bands of the last 20 years and a group that steals from everyone and still comes out sounding like no one else. This is from the solid The Dandy Warhols Come Down album, which is an early work that finds the band searching for the form they settle on in later albums.
2. Who Has to Be Stopped: Rubio-Pek P&R
Let’s be honest: the Spurs should not lose this game. Even with no Duncan and no Ginobili, the outstanding play of Tony Parker and the solid bench should be enough to carry the Spurs to victory. The one thing that might stand in the way is Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic pick-and-rolling the Spurs into oblivion. Rubio is such a deft passer and Pek is so big and moves well in space, this could be an issue. Because of this, don’t be surprised if our new Aussie center is the first big off the bench. Baynes showed great mobility defending the picks in his game against Charlotte (again, Charlotte, but still) and I think he is already a better NBA defender than Blair.
3. Who Has to Go Off: Splitter, Another Guard
Tony will have a Tony game tonight. Tony could have a TONY! game tonight and make this easy; remember when he hung 55 on the Wolves in Minny 2 years ago? But if he is just lower-case Tony, that means someone else needs to play well, and I’m betting on Tiago. He’s in the midst of his best stretch in a Spurs uni right now and, although I’d like to see better rebounding, he is solid on both ends. He’ll get plenty of minutes as well, without #21.
Someone in the Danny Green – Gary Neal – Stephen Jackson contingent also needs to put up 15-plus points tonight. Not sure who it will be: Neal is in a self-proclaimed slump, the 48 MoH guys have rightly dubbed Danny “Icy Hot”, and Jack’s broken finger is limiting his shooting effectiveness.
4. And the Crystal Ball Says….: Spurs, 96; Wolves, 90
This one may be closer than we think and I’m sure the suits at ESPN are disappointed with all of the injuries in this game, but I’m sure they’ll sell the PG battle between Rubio and Parker. It’s not a battle at all. I think Tony hits an easy 25-10 and the Spurs cruise for most of the game, before the Wolves make it closer at the end.
5. I’m Wrong If….: Slumps are over
If Neal’s shot is back and we have “Hot” Danny instead of “Icy” Danny, this one could be a blowout (like the last Minny game was). #FreePattyMills
6. Odds and Ends
Please, please, please don’t let Jon Barry be the color guy for our ESPN game tonight. I’ll take Doris Burke, I’ll take anyone but Jon Barry. If Jon is there, I’m going to be forced to watch Bill Land and Sean Elliott.
Speaking of Sean, I got League Pass for the 2nd half of the season and I have to confess, I’ve gained a new respect for Sean and Bill. Yes, they are homers, without question. But, the quality of announcing for local broadcasts is AWFUL. I won’t name names, but there are former players announcing for other teams that I can’t even understand. And few of them have more than platitudes to offer: “The team needs to play harder” or “They’re not closing out hard enough”. Sean at least provides some degree of X-and-O discussion and, maybe most importantly, he understands what Pop and the Spurs are trying to do and helps explain it. He also has great chemistry with Bill, which is rare in other NBA locals, believe me. There’s a lot to gripe about with Sean, but have you listened to Tommy Heinsohn? We don’t have it so bad.
I’d love to have your feedback on Sean and Bill via Twitter (@BartTBF). Hit me up.