SAN ANTONIO (AP)—The San Antonio Spurs have won three NBA championships in the last five seasons in part because don’t underestimate their opponents.
And while Manu Ginobili said the Spurs gave the Minnesota Timberwolves, with the worst record in the Western Conference, their due respect on Saturday night, he still thought they should have played better against them.
“Actually, the last probably 10-15 games I felt like we could have played better,” said Ginobili, who had 22 points in the Spurs’ 105-88 win. “We are just not playing well. … We didn’t play sharp.”
The Spurs were trailing Minnesota, which has lost two in a row, nine of its last 10 and 14 straight on the road, at halftime—albeit by just one point.
“No,” was all an unimpressed Popovich said when asked if win No. 600 felt different than win No. 599.
After their blowout loss to Houston the night before, when the Wolves were down by more than 30 points at halftime, Saturday’s extra effort was welcomed by the team.
“It was an improvement tonight, but it’s tough to lose games,” Minnesota center Michael Doleac said.
Parker also had eight assists for the Spurs and Finley scored 11 points.
Craig Smith scored 12 points for Minnesota.
“For the most part, through the tough times we stayed in it,” Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s San Antonio, or who it is, we just have got to make sure we’ve got the consistent effort.”
The Spurs trailed 45-44 at halftime before they took the lead for good with an 11-2 run to start the third capped by a 3-pointer from Michael Finley.
Ginobili, who scored nine points in the quarter and is still playing with a splint on his injured left index finger, pushed the Spurs’ lead to 67-57 with 3:30 to play when he stole the ball from Gomes and followed Jacque Vaughn’s miss with a layup.
San Antonio also gained the edge in rebounding, and Matt Bonner’s long jumper put the Spurs up 75-62, with 35 seconds left in the quarter.
“I think ultimately you look at it as an entire picture,” Vaughn said of the first-half struggles. “You want to continue to keep pressing in the sense of making effort plays, making energy plays and we were able to do those things in the second half.”
The Timberwolves got within five early in the fourth and within seven with 7:10 to play, but the Spurs pulled away behind a bucket each from Duncan and Parker and five free throws that gave them a 94-80 advantage with 4:07 left.
They soon extended their lead to 18 points, their biggest of the night, for the third time off a pair of free throws from Francisco Elson with 1:54 to go.
The Timberwolves came out with a bit more energy early. They were tied with San Antonio at 24-all after one quarter, when they were shooting nearly 60 percent.
By halftime they were up one and were outrebounding the Spurs 20-15. Minnesota’s early performance was in stark contrast to the night before, when they were down by more than 30 points at halftime.
Jefferson was largely responsible, scoring 14 points in the first half.
The Timberwolves have lost 16 of their last 18 games overall. … San Antonio, which likes to call itself “Military City, USA” because it has so many installations in the area, paid thanks to service members with video tributes during the game. … Wittman got a technical foul with 4:07 to go in the fourth quarter. … The Spurs hit just 22-of-35 from the foul line. Minnesota went 12-of-13. … The Spurs hit 11 3-pointers.