Timberwolves-Spurs Preview

The Associated Press

After dominating the series with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the last five years, the San Antonio Spurs have dropped this season's first two matchups.

Their final meeting Wednesday night, however, seems like it could shape up differently.

This time, the Spurs have Manu Ginobili, the Timberwolves are without Ricky Rubio and the setting is the AT&T Center, where San Antonio has won the last 14 meetings.

The Southwest Division-leading Spurs (29-14) lost 106-96 to Minnesota on Jan. 2, snapping a 16-game winning streak in the series. Kevin Love had 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who hadn't defeated San Antonio since Jan. 3, 2007, and the Spurs were dealt a major blow as Ginobili broke his left hand.

Ginobili missed the next 22 games, including an 87-79 loss in Minnesota on Jan. 27. Love had 18 points and 16 rebounds, Rubio scored nine of his 18 in the fourth quarter and the Timberwolves finished the game on an 8-0 run.

San Antonio is 17-6 since and has moved into second place in the Western Conference. Minnesota (23-24) is on the outside of the playoff picture, and its postseason aspirations took a major hit when Rubio suffered a season-ending ACL tear two weeks ago.

The veteran Spurs should be well rested for this matchup having been off since Saturday's 106-99 loss to Dallas. Tim Duncan and Danny Green scored 17 apiece while Tony Parker had 13 points and 11 assists for San Antonio, which lost for the first time in four games.

The time off should certainly benefit Ginobili, who had nine points on 3-of-11 shooting against the Mavericks after sitting out Friday's 114-105 road win over West-leading Oklahoma City with a hip flexor injury. He had averaged 13.8 points on 57.1 percent shooting - 59.1 from 3-point range - and 5.4 assists in his previous five games.

"The hip is much better," Ginobili said. "Not the best I've ever felt, but much better than last week. So that has me optimistic."

A home game against the Timberwolves could have the Spurs feeling confident as they try to avoid losing two in a row for the first time since falling to Minnesota and Dallas at the end of January.

San Antonio has won 14 straight at home over the Timberwolves since a 100-93 loss Jan. 14, 2004. That's tied for the fourth-longest active home winning streak over one team.

Minnesota arrives in San Antonio for the sixth stop of a seven-game trip after beating Golden State 97-93 on Tuesday. Love finished with 36 points and 17 rebounds for his league-leading 39th double-double as the Timberwolves won for the second time in seven games.

Love averages team highs of 25.9 points and 13.7 rebounds, and Minnesota has won six of the last seven times he's reached the 30-point mark.

"When we have Kevin Love with 36 and 17, it's really hard to beat us," said forward Derrick Williams, who went 2 of 9 from the floor but had 11 rebounds Tuesday. "We had to get this one."

The Timberwolves are trying to win three in a row over the Spurs for the first time since sweeping the four-game season series in 1996-97.

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