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Spurs keep Wolves mired in slump behind Ginobili's 31

MINNEAPOLIS -- San Antonio has learned to maximize Manu Ginobili's
impact by making him a substitute after having started 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.''

Al Jefferson had 23 points and 11 rebounds, reserve Craig Smith
added 10 points, Mark Madsen provided his usual 12 minutes of
energy underneath, and all three had a hand in limiting Tim Duncan.

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.''

Ginobili went 11-for-16 from the field, Tony Parker added 17
points, and Bruce Bowen made three 3-pointers for San Antonio
(14-3), which didn't lead until early in the fourth quarter.

"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 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.

Game notes
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.