Game rewind: Horrible start to new year in frigid Minneapolis

It would be hard to imagine much worse of a start for the new year than what the Spurs endured Monday night.

The Spurs lost All-Star guard Manu Ginobili for an extended period after he sustained a fractured fifth metacarpal of his left hand. It is Ginobili’s dominant shooting hand.

Making matters worse, a blistering perimeter game by Minnesota catapulted the Timberwolves to a 106-96 victory for the Spurs’ second road loss in as many games.

Here’s a look at how the Wolves punctuated the most successful back-to-back of the team’s recent woeful history after beating Dallas Sunday night.

Game analysis: The Spurs looked old and slow in their defensive rotations as Minnesota blistered them for 87.5 percent 3-point shooting in the first half and cruised to their first victory over them since Jan. 3, 2007. 

Where the game was won: After James Anderson’s 3-pointer pulled the Spurs within 72-65 with 7:38 left in the third quarter, the Timberwolves erupted for 10 straight points to put the game away on a 3-pointer and three assists from Luke Ridnour. The Spurs never came within single digits during the rest of the game.

Player of the game: Kevin Love. The skinnier version of Love looks like he has picked up where he left off during his breakthrough season last year. Love torched the Spurs for 24 points and 15 rebounds, including four 3-pointers.

Player of the game II: Ridnour. His playing time eventually might be impacted with the emergence of Ricky Rubio, but Ridnour expertly directed the Timberwolves’ offense with 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field and nine assists. He hit his first five shots and then sparked the finishing kick late in the third quarter that put the Spurs away.

Player of the game III: Tim Duncan bounced out of his recent slump to provide a season-best 16 points and five assists. It was his strongest offensive game of the season.

Most unsung: Danny Green. Before Ginobili’s injury, Green might have been expendable when Gary Neal came off injured reserve. But his strong game Monday night and Ginobili’s injury should give him an opportunity to showcase his skills. He made a good first start Monday nbight with nine points, three rebounds and suffocating defense on Rubio in 17 minutes. He was also one of two Spurs to have a postive plus-minus score at plus-1, along with Matt Bonner.

Stat of the game: The Timberwolves shot 57.7 percent from the field and 57.1 percent of their 3-pointers, including 87.5 percent behind the arc in the first half.

Stat of the game II: Minnesota’s starting backcourt of Wesley Johnson and Ridnour combined to shoot 81.3 percent from the field. Wesley Johnson hit all six field-goal attempts and Ridnour went 7 for 10.

Stat of the game III: The Spurs had 30 rebounds against the Timberwolves Monday night. It was their fewest rebounds in game since grabbing 27 against Memphis last March 27.

Weird stat of the game: The Spurs limited Minnesota to 12 points in the fourth quarter. It was the lowest-scoring quarter by a Spurs opponent this season.   

Quote of the game: “He’s pretty important to us. And we lost him. We’ve just got to deal with it,” Spurs coach Gregg  Popovich to reporters after the game on the loss of Ginobili.

How the schedule stacked up: The Spurs rested Sunday before their arrival in Minnesota. The Timberwolves were on the second night of a back-to-back after beating Dallas on Sunday night.

Injuries: Neal sat out his fifth regular-season game of the season with an appendectomy. Ginobili sustained a fractured fifth metacarpal on his left hand late in the second quarter. Minnesota guard Jose Juan Barea missed the game with a strained left hamstring and did not dress. Neither did guard Malcolm Lee, who underwent surgery last week to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. He’ll be sidelined indefinitely.

What’s up next: The Spurs return home Wednesday to play Golden State at home, starting a run of six games over the next eight days. Minnesota will face Memphis Wednesday night, starting a run of five games over seven days.

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