Before the game, newest Spurs acquisition Stephen Jackson said he’s been enjoying catching up with his favorite San Antonio restaurants and landmarks.
Jackson said that the city hasn’t changed much since he left in 2003, only a few weeks after the Spurs claimed their second NBA championship with the mercurial forward helping to shoot them to the title.
“I know my around,” Jackson said. “I’ve been to Papadeaux’s a couple of times. I’ve been to the Quarry and went to the movies. There’s not too much that’s different. The highways have changed a little bit, but everything is still the same.”
Once he got into the lineup, his basketball production followed that pattern, too.
Jackson started hot by hitting his first two shots that helped stake San Antonio’s early run to an impressive 116-100 victory over Minnesota.
It was almost like he had never left. Jackson hit 3 of 4 3-pointers en route to 16 points. It was the same kind of feathery touch he showed in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the Spurs’ title-clinching victory in 2003 in his last home game as a Spur.
“We won and that’s what I’m all about,” Jackson said about his Wednesday night effort. “I’m glad to be here on a team that wins. It feels good to finally get back on the court and get this first home game out of the way.”
In the nine years since he left, Jackson has turned into a more mature veteran who will turn 34 next month. And it appears he’s quickly adapted to the role that Gregg Popovich envisioned for him when he was acquired for Richard Jefferson, a conditional 2012 first-round draft pick and the rights to T.J. Ford last week.
“I did not have too many jitters because I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Jackson said. “To be able to get out there and win this game is great.”
After three days off, the Spurs showed little rustiness as they started with an impressive victory that kicks off their most arduous stretch of the season to date.
Here’s how they did it.
The game, simply stated: After being pounded inside by the Timberwolves in two previous games, the Spurs were more determined inside and dominated the game in the paint as they cruised to a comfortable victory that was marred by Tony Parker’s hamstring injury.
Where the game was won: Playing without widebody Nikola Pekovic inside, the Spurs exploited his absence quickly. They grabbed five rebounds before Minnesota got one and jumped to a quick 4-0 lead on a Tim Duncan dunk and a fastbreak alley-0op basket from Duncan to Danny Green to take control.
Putting it away: The Spurs erupted on a 14-3 surge to finish the first quarter that coincided with Jackson’s entry into the game. Jackson punctuated the run with a fastbreak dunk on a feed from Manu Ginobili and a 3-pointer on another pass from Ginobili that finished the quarter.
The finisher: After Love’s layup had pulled Minnesota within 78–65 with 3:11 left in the third quarter, the Spurs hit the Timberwolves with a 15-6 surge capped by Tiago Splitter’s dunk on a pass from Ginobili that boosted them to a 91-69 lead with 54.3 seconds left that was their biggest lead in the game to that point.
Player of the game I: Duncan had another vintage effort with game-high totals of 21 points, 15 rebounds and four assists. More remarkably, he posted his numbers in only 24:19 and didn’t play after he went out with 2:15 left in the third quarter.
Player of the game II: Jackson delivered strong shooting with three of the Spurs’ seven 3-pointers. He finished with 16 points, three rebounds and two steals in 21:58.
Player of the game III: Kawhi Leonard hooked up with Love on several occasions defensively and played well. He also provided 16 points and nine rebounds in the kind of performance that might earn him a permanent starting position — sooner rather than later.
Most unsung: With Tony Parker going down with a hamstring injury with 8:03 left in the second quarter, Gary Neal and Ginobili were thrust into the point guard role. Neal overcame a slow start to finish with 16 points, four steals and three assists. Ginobili provided nine points, eight assists and four rebounds.
Attendance: Bruce Bowen’s jersey retirement night was bound to be one of the most anticipated nights of the regular season. So it wasn’t a surprise that the Spurs attracted another sellout crowd of 18,581 at the ATT Center. It was the Spurs’ 16th capacity crowd in 22 home games this season, including 13 of their last 15 games and ninth in a row. Their last non-capacity game came Feb. 2 against New Orleans. They are averaging 18,305, a capacity rate of 98.5 percent for the season.
Did you notice I: Bruce Bowen and his sons were sitting in the courtside seats. But early in the first quarter, the Bowen boys got a little overexcited and spilled one of their drinks. It made their dad take care of some family business before his jersey was hoisted to the rafters of the ATT Center.
Did you notice II: Popovich appeared to have some well-placed verbal salvos for DeJuan Blair, who had two late turnovers including an almost comical pass that appeared intended for the fans in the fifth row sitting behind the Spurs’ basket. Whatever Popovich said appeared to get the point across, as well as prompt some snickers from Duncan and Splitter along the San Antonio bench.
Stat of the game I: After being outrebounded by an average of 10 in two previous losses to Minnesota, the Spurs tallied a 56-41 rebounding advantage Wednesday night . Their total Wednesday night was a season high.
Stat of the game II: The Spurs claimed their fourth victory in their last five games.
Stat of the game III: Minnesota’s Kevin Love notched 17 points and 12 rebounds to record his league-leading 40th double-double.
Stat of the game IV: The Spurs grabbed six offensive rebounds before Minnesota grabbed its first offensive carom and had a 17-9 edge on offensive rebounds in the game.
Stat of the game V: After struggling recently from the foul line, the Spurs hit 76 percent from the line. Coming into Wednesday’s game, the Spurs had shot 62.5 percent from the line or less in four of five games and 66.7 percent or less in six of their last nine games.
Stat of the game VI: Jackson hit five of his first six shots before hitting on only one of his last three over the final 20 minutes of the game.
Stat of the game VII: Minnesota has not won in San Antonio in 15 games, a streak dating back to Jan. 14, 2004.
Weird stat of the night: Duncan produced 21 points and 15 rebounds in 24:19. It marked only the second time in his career he has produced at least 20 points and 15 rebounds in less than 25 minutes. The only other time in his career came on Feb. 26, 2004, when he notched 22 points and 17 rebounds in 25 minutes against Dallas.
Weird stat of the night II: Before leaving with his hamstring injury, Parker played only 10:29. It marked only the sixth time in his career he played in 11 minutes in a game. It was his lowest playing time since notching 11 minutes against Portland on Nov. 6, 2009.
Weird stat of the night III: James Anderson scored seven points in 16:49. It was his biggest scoring effort since he scored 11 points in 34:45 in the blowout loss at Portland on Feb. 21.
Weird stat of the night IV: The Spurs well on their way to breaking their season mark for points (122) and assists (31) midway through the fourth quarter. But they were shut out over the final 3:26 and didn’t have an assist over the final 4:53, finishing with 116 points and 29 assists.
Not a good sign: Other than the obvious injury to Parker, Neal struggled shooting in the first half before rebounding after the break. After missing five of his first six shots, Neal rebounded to hit six of his last nine attempts.
Best plus/minus scores: Splitter was plus-14, Duncan was plus-13 and Leonard was plus-12.
Worst plus/minus scores: Eric Dawson was minus-4 and Anderson was minus-2. They were the only Spurs with negative scores.
Quote of the game: “Gary did a great job (at the point ) for a 2-guard. He’s not a 1, but he kind of likes it for some strange reason. So we’re happy he can do what he does at that position,” Popovich on Neal’s extended playing time at point guard with Parker injured.
How the schedule stacks up: After taking Thursday off, the Spurs will have their first back-to-back-to-back games of the season with games Friday against Dallas, Saturday at New Orleans and Sunday against Philadelphia. Minnesota travels to Oklahoma City for a Friday night game, returns home Sunday for Denver before back-to-back road games Tuesday at Memphis and March 28 at Charlotte.
Injuries: Matt Bonner missed his first game of the season with back spasms. Parker left the lineup with 8:05 left in the second quarter with what Popovich described as a mild hamstring strain. Minnesota played without Pekovic, who was back in Minneapolis receiving treatment on his sore ankles. Michael Beasley was limited to 11 minutes and none in the second half when a sprained big toe flared up. Starting point guard Ricky Rubio is out for the season with a torn ACL. And Minnesota coach Rick Adelman sat Darko Milicic for the sixth time in seven days because he thinks he’s out of shape.