SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Manu Ginobili needed three quarters Saturday
to warm up in his first game back from an ankle sprain. By the
fourth, he was ready to play.
"In the beginning I was scared to step on somebody or go to the
basket," said Ginobili, who finished with 14 points in 20 minutes
in his return after spending the last three games on the inactive
list. "That's why I was a little slow and hesitant."
Ginobili was sidelined last Sunday in Miami when he turned his
right ankle after stepping on Udonis Haslem's foot while driving to
the basket. He has missed 13 games since Dec. 1 with injuries to
his right foot and ankle.
"It's great to have him back in the starting lineup, to see him
out there in the fourth quarter really take over a game and get
back to the way he used to play," said Tim Duncan, who led San
Antonio with 28 points and 16 rebounds.
Minnesota got within 85-81 on a pair of free throws by Eddie
Griffin with more than 6 minutes left in the game.
"It was a close game there for a while," Minnesota's Kevin
Garnett said. "Then Ginobili came in and captured some momentum
back for them and they pulled away."
Ginobili hit a runner followed by a long 3-pointer and Bruce
Bowen added a corner 3 to make it 98-82 with 2:21 left.
The Spurs' defense stepped up during the key stretch, allowing
the Timberwolves only four shots and forcing two turnovers.
"I see the difference in our team -- the speed, the quickness,
the guys in attack mode," Minnesota coach Dwane Casey said. "I
liked our scrap, I liked our fight."
Marko Jaric (13 points) hit his first three shots, one of them a
3-pointer, as the Timberwolves took their biggest lead of the game
at 12-7. San Antonio made only two of its first 10 shots, both of
them by Duncan.
The Spurs took a 19-18 lead with 25 seconds left in the first
when Nazr Mohammed threw a court-length pass to Finley for a dunk.
After a tip-in by Blount narrowed San Antonio's lead to four,
the Spurs went on a 10-3 run to build up a 40-29 advantage. Duncan
made a pair of short jumpers and Robert Horry, who missed the
previous five games with an abdominal strain, hit a corner
San Antonio still led by 10 late in the second, but the
Timberwolves scored the final five points of the quarter -- capped
by a 17-footer by Davis with 1.9 seconds -- to make 47-42 at
Minnesota made nine of its first 14 shots in the third, but the
Spurs kept their lead.
Blount made a layup and a jumper to pull the Timberwolves within
62-60 with about 3 minutes remaining in the period.
San Antonio then got baskets from Mohammed and Brent Barry, and
Parker drove under Garnett and Blount for a layup to make it 73-65.
Parker scored 10 points in the period.
The Spurs will play their next eight games on the road to
make room for two weeks of rodeo at the AT&T Center. The next home
game is Feb. 21 against Seattle. ... Horry left the game early in
the fourth when his abdomen tightened up. ... Minnesota is now
20-22, including 7-14 on the road. ... The Timberwolves were
2-for-7 on 3-pointers, one of them by Garnett. They are 13-for-48
(27 percent) on 3-pointers in their last six games.