Spurs outscore Wolves 54-26 in the paint


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Tim Duncan knows now is the perfect time for
the San Antonio Spurs to get on a roll.

Duncan had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and David Robinson added 18 points as San Antonio held off the Minnesota Timberwolves 85-77 Friday night.

"We're not done yet. We're far from done," Duncan said. "We're looking to peak at the right time, and this is a great place to start."

The Spurs were blown out at home by the Timberwolves last Saturday. After a win over Phoenix got sandwiched between a loss to
the Suns and Thursday night's overtime loss at Cleveland, the Spurs
found themselves three games behind Minnesota and four behind Midwest Division-leading Dallas.

But a big win over the Timberwolves might be just what they needed to get their confidence back.

"Tonight we wanted to set a tone early and get to the ball and get some good stuff happening," Robinson said. "That first quarter, almost all our points were in the paint. So it was a good tone we set."

Trailing 78-75 late in the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves had
several chances to score down the stretch. But they couldn't crack
the Spurs' defense and were forced into hurried shots with the shot
clock winding down.

After Wally Szczerbiak missed a 3-point shot, Steve Smith nailed a 3 of his own with 57.1 seconds left to make it 81-75.

"They were holding on. They went to double Tim. Tony (Parker)
swung it to Bruce (Bowen), Bruce swung it to me, and I had a pretty
good look at it," Smith said.

The Spurs pounded the Timberwolves inside with Duncan and
Robinson, and Minnesota had no answer for Duncan's jump hooks in
the lane.

"Mentally, we were fresh, but we didn't have the same approach
like when we were going down there," Kevin Garnett said. "We were
lackadaisical and people weren't in the right spots. Collectively,
when we're not all on the same page, we all look bad."

Robinson had six dunks as San Antonio outscored Minnesota 54-26 in the paint.

"We attacked them down low, I thought we did a great job down
there of really sucking the defense in and kicking the ball out,"
Duncan said.

Szczerbiak led Minnesota with 21 points, and Garnett added 17
points and 10 rebounds. The Timberwolves lost for just the third
time in 10 games.

Joe Smith's jumper at the 9:35 mark in the third quarter pulled
Minnesota to 48-41. But tensions escalated during an 8-2 Spurs run
in which Szczerbiak was kicked in the face and Minnesota coach Flip
Saunders was called for a technical foul.

After a layup by Duncan made it 52-41, Szczerbiak drove on Bowen
and faked him into the air. Bowen's leg inadvertently flew into
Szczerbiak's face, catching him right below his right eye.

Then, Malik Rose tipped in a missed free throw by Bowen at 6:14
to make it 55-44. Saunders, who thought the tip should have been a
goaltending violation, was hit with the technical for arguing with
the officials.

"There was a lot of attitude out there. These two teams do not like to lose to one another," Robinson said. "That's just the rivalry."

The Spurs capitalized on early poor shooting by the
Timberwolves, who went 4-of-17 to start the game.

"We had no offensive flow all night," Saunders said.

The Spurs led 44-35 at halftime.

Game notes
Timberwolves F Gary Trent played for the first time in nine
games after being sidelined with a strained left hamstring. Trent
played five minutes and picked up two fouls. ... A grimacing Marc
Jackson went to the Minnesota locker room in the first quarter
after getting hit in the hip. After receiving treatment, he
returned in the second quarter. ... During their current 7-3 surge,
the Timberwolves have gone 5-1 against teams with winning records.
... The Spurs are 7-9 in the first game of back-to-back games this
season and 12-4 in the second game.