Popovich’s ejection motivates Spurs to win
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s blood had been boiling since early minutes in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, as his team stopped moving the ball.
After his team went scoreless on the first five possessions, Gregg Popovich called a time out to express in a very animated way that San Antonio Spurs pull their head back into the game and stretch the court to create scoring opportunities.
The San Antonio Spurs responded with an 11-0 run to improve their record to 29-11 this season following Sunday’s 106-88 win. That temporarily cooled off Gregg Popovich’s emotions until another show of frustration in the fourth quarter landed him two technical and automatically landing the 63-year-old an ejection Sunday’s game.
Following the Minnesota Timberwolves’ conversion of a five-point possession, the San Antonio Spurs jumped forth with a 9-0 run to cap their 12th consecutive victory on home court.
Seeing Gregg Popovich walkout to the exit after being ejected immediately brought back San Antonio Spurs guard Stephen Jackson’s memories from his two technical fouls against the Los Angeles Lakers from four days ago that ultimately resulted in an ejection and a five-point possession for the Lakers.
“Is that my Dad?” pondered Stephen Jackson. “Am I Pop Jr.?”
Later, laughing at his own train of thought, Stephen Jackson noted that players highly respect a coach like Gregg Popovich who’s willing to part with $2,000 in fines just to make his stand for the team.
“Any time a coach does that, you know what it means: Go out there and play harder, go out there and get this game, even if he’s not on the sideline,” stated Stephen Jackson. “Every player loves a coach who goes to bat for him. You can’t get better than the way Pop does it.”
Sunday’s game was an emotional rollercoaster for Gregg Popovich who was already stressed out after San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili played through the first half with a strained left hamstring. The veteran Manu Ginobili’s injury was scheduled to be reevaluated again later on Sunday.
Gary Neal teamed up with veteran point guard Tony Parker on the offense, while replacing Manu Ginobili in the second half. The 28-year-old Gary Neal made 13 of his 15 points in the last two quarters of the game.
“He shot the ball great and gave us some impetus, but we finally found a group that would move the basketball instead of standing,” noted Gregg Popovich. “We actually changed sides of the court and moved the ball and moved the defense, and then Gary made some shots… When you score, it’s a little easier to play defense at the other end instead of chasing everybody all the time.”
The San Antonio Spurs defense never lost pace of the game unless they were chasing down the Minnesota Timberwolves on post-turnover runouts. The Minnesota Timberwolves shot just 37.5 percent while becoming only the 10th opponents to score fewer than 90 points against the San Antonio Spurs.
Tim Duncan racked up a season-best seven block and improving on scoring 4-of-8 shots, so that the San Antonio Spurs finished with a season-high 13 rejections.
“They just kept coming at me, and I was just trying to bring some energy and get a rhythm back,” said Tim Duncan. “I’ve been in a slump lately, and I’m just trying to fight my way out of it.”