Spurs-Timberwolves Preview

The Associated Press

The San Antonio Spurs' depth has allowed for a relatively successful first week without Tony Parker.

That depth will be further tested with neither of their starting forwards available.

Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard did not travel with the team due to sore knees, leaving the Spurs extremely short-handed Tuesday night as they go for a 20th victory in 22 meetings with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

San Antonio (49-15) has won three of four games since losing Parker to a sprained ankle on March 1, but now Duncan and Leonard also will be missing due to sore knees.

Each of them played 35 minutes while combining for 30 points Monday as the Spurs pulled within a victory of their 15th straight 50-win campaign in a non-lockout-shortened season by beating Oklahoma City 105-93.

The Spurs are 6-2 overall this season without Parker in the lineup, and they're 8-2 minus Duncan.

While Tiago Splitter had 21 points with 10 rebounds Monday and fellow starter Danny Green added 16, Manu Ginobili (12 points) and Boris Diaw (11) contributed off the bench in a balanced effort.

"We had a lot of great play from the bench," Duncan said. "That second squad came in there and kind of changed the tempo and took control of the game."

At least a pair of those reserves - possibly Diaw and Ginobili - will head to the starting lineup Tuesday.

Those new starting forwards will play alongside Splitter, who has three double-doubles in five games this month. San Antonio is 21-4 since beating Minnesota 106-88 on Jan. 13.

"I think everybody played well," Splitter said. "I was one of them. You play well and you feel better. You want to play well against these kinds of teams, these playoff teams. Of course, we've got to stay humble."

The Spurs surely could use another strong game from Green, who scored a career-high 28 points in a 104-94 win at Minnesota on Feb. 6 to end a two-game road skid in the series.

The Timberwolves (21-39) have the fewest wins in the Western Conference and have lost seven of eight after falling 100-77 to Dallas on Sunday. Derrick Williams had 18 points and nine rebounds for Minnesota, which is 6-25 since Kevin Love broke his hand again Jan. 3.

"You have to find a way. The coaching staff is trying to find a way to come up with a game plan," coach Rick Adelman said. "We are trying figure out what else can we do. There is no easy answer but you have got to. There are 20-plus games left and we have to find a way to get something going."

Minnesota didn't do itself any favors by shooting 36.4 percent from the field. It has hit 39.2 percent over the last seven games.

"You can defend the (heck) out of people, but if you can't make shots in this league you're in trouble," Adelman said. "That's what's happening to us. Game after game, we just really struggle to put the ball in the basket."

It likely won't get any easier against a Spurs team that prides itself on defense. San Antonio is holding opponents to 43.9 percent shooting on the season, with Minnesota hitting only 38.8 percent from the field over this season's two meetings.

"No team ends up being a really good team without playing good 'D,' " coach Gregg Popovich said. "It's always about defense. If you don't play good defense, you're nothing in this league."

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