1. It’s been said that money makes the world go around and if that’s true I would say that LaMarcus Aldridge played like 72 million bucks last night. After a turbulent summer in which many doubted that LMA would ever don the black and silver ever again it was a surprise to most that just days before the start of the season Aldridge signed a 3 year extension worth for the aforementioned fortune. Well if last night is any indication it would appear that it may be money well spent. Aldridge went for 25 and 10 with 4 assists and (YES) 2 blocks. Apparently, the big talk with POP before signing the extension worked because of course he did. His newfound commitment to defense alone is almost evidence of this. We all know that he is capable of this type of play consistently but to see him lead this group without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker should put worry in the hearts of everyone in the West (yes, them included).
The makeshift starting backcourt of Danny Green and Dejonte “Baby Boy” Murray did a spectacular job not only scoring fairly consistently but also neutralizing the some of Minny’s weapons. Green scored 17 including going 3 of 7 from deep and did an excellent job locking up opposing wings. But Murray really took the lead here going for 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting 5 rebounds, a pair of assists and steals as well as a block. We saw flashes of this in the playoffs now it appears he’s arrived. His work on Teague and Butler was especially impressive.
2. Another big question mark from the off-season was how much of an impact Rudy Gay would have coming off of such a devastating Achilles injury. Well, he looked good last night. Gay had 14 points, 5 rebounds with 2 assists and a steal in 23 minutes. Besides him physically being ready for play there were arguably more concerns around him incorporating within the Spurs framework. Gay seamlessly fit in last night floating between the 3 and 4 spots and providing much needed energy and defense.
And honestly everyone else did Spursy things and played their part. Kyle Anderson will erase any memory of Jonathan Simmons in about a month if the can consistently play as he did last night. His 12 and 9 starting at the three spot helped the machine chugging along. Pau Gasol (who also got pizzaid this summer) chipped in 7 and 7 with 3 blocks who along with LMA’s defensive showing is starting to lay to rest all of the talk of the lack of rim protection. Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills despite having having trouble scoring (only 3 field goals between them) they were able to facilitate and defend. All in all very impressive in the absence of Tony and Kawhi. But very Spursy all the same.
3. The T’Wolves played a hard game but they were tasked with something that most teams cannot do, closeout a close game against the Spurs. The grand experiment got off to a rough start but there are some good things to take away here. Andrew Wiggins was good, really good. He finished with 26 and 5 on 9 of 14 shooting including 4 of 6 from deep. The makings of a star was in full display. Improved three point shooting? Check. Getting into his spots? Check. Putting great defenses at a loss at times? Check. Drew still has a ways to go in terms of becoming a complete player but the what he’s great at the skills he has now. Karl Anthony-Towns looked good also finishing with 18 and 13 with a block. However, the fact that he only got 15 shot attempts is still troubling.
This brings me to what didn’t look so great. Jeff Teague looked to be a more compatible point guard for this squad but despite his talent and experience he looked as if he had trouble finding guys in spots. He did protect the ball well so turnovers weren’t an issue but he had issues dealing with Murray and Green preventing him from doing more. Jimmy Butler also saw a rough start to his tenure in Minny. On a line of 12-4-3 Jimmy probably looked the most out of place with Wiggins taking up the role he didn’t attack the basket as he normally would as evident by him having zero attempts from the charity stripe. Taj Gibson provided some toughness but his 3 of 11 shooting output certainly didn’t help things.
Outside of the 10 for Jamal Crawford the bench looked terrible. Nemanja Bjelica looked okay but defensively he couldn’t effectively spell Gibson which may have indirectly contributed to his bad showing. Tyus Jones did very little in his 23 minutes and Dieng as well as Mohammed were more or less not there. Things will gel for this team I believe but in a crowded Western Conference 82 games ain’t as much as it seems. So yeah, they need to get going on that.