MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—San Antonio has maximized Manu Ginobili’s impact this season by making him a substitute, though he’s been a starter for much of his career.
This is the very definition of the Spurs, who have dominated the league with four titles in the last eight years by finding the right role for every player.
Ginobili scored a season-high 31 points with 7-for-9 shooting from 3-point range, and the Spurs stormed past the fledgling Minnesota Timberwolves for a 106-91 victory on Friday night—closing the game with a staggering 40-11 run.
“With a young team, it takes a while to build that confidence, and know what each other is doing on the court, and know where people are, who defers to who, what the pecking order is,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “That takes time. We’re older than dirt. We figured that out a long time ago.”
Duncan, however, finished with a savvy 20 points and 14 rebounds after making only two field goals over the first 31 minutes.
“Today, I was really good with that shot,” said Ginobili, who is the only player in the NBA averaging more than 18 points and less than 30 minutes per game. “They made a decision to double Tim, and so that’s where I had open shots. I’ve always been working on my 3-point shot, especially to make them come hard and then use my penetration.”
“It stings. It hurts. It hurts, because we put so much into preparing for the game and going out there and doing all the right things and just not finishing it off,” said Sebastian Telfair, who had 17 points despite some erratic play at point guard with the Wolves (2-12) hurting at that position.
Randy Foye has been out all season and might be sidelined for another month, and Rashad McCants was a surprise scratch because of a sore right knee. Then Marko Jaric, who had replaced Foye as the starter, sprained his right foot and left after the first quarter. Coach Randy Wittman said McCants showed up before the game and was hurting. He said Jaric’s injury is “probably not good.”
The final 85 seconds of the third quarter were devastating for Minnesota. After Greg Buckner subbed for Telfair at the point, San Antonio closed with an 8-0 run that grew to 14-0 on consecutive 3-pointers by Bruce Bowen and Brent Barry to start the fourth.
The Wolves had their biggest lead, 80-66, before that spurt and didn’t fall behind until Duncan’s free throw with 9:05 remaining made it 83-82.
“Teams are made up of human beings,” Popovich said. “No matter how you slice it, teams that aren’t playing well always come up with victories against good teams for that very reason. You need to guard against that throughout the season.”
It was the first time Duncan and the Spurs played Minnesota without Kevin Garnett, after a series of sometimes-testy, always-competitive matchups between two of the league’s premier power forwards.
Madsen drew a foul on Duncan with an Oscar-worthy flop following a light forearm to the chest in the first quarter in front of San Antonio’s bench, angering Popovich to the point of drawing a technical foul.
In the third, Madsen was called for his fourth personal foul for some rough stuff around the basket involving Duncan, who got mad and shouted an expletive at Madsen. Madsen walked away with his back turned, and Duncan was whistled for a technical.
Rookie forward Corey Brewer has not been much of a factor for the Timberwolves since they launched their rebuilding project. Wittman said before the game that the seventh overall draft pick has been “tight” offensively while learning the nuances of the NBA style. … Spurs veteran Robert Horry was on the active list for the first time this season, but he didn’t play. … Foye is still relegated to light jogging and running on an underwater treadmill while recovering from a stress reaction in his left kneecap. Foye is scheduled for another CT scan on Dec. 10, when a timetable for his return could be more clear. … San Antonio has won 11 of the last 14 games against Minnesota and is 54-23 overall. The Wolves have not won a season series from the Spurs since 1999-2000.