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Spurs get 57 points from bench, beat T-Wolves

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The San Antonio Spurs want a few more quality
wins down the stretch to find their rhythm for the playoffs and the
next step in their title defense.

This was a decent start, even against the depleted Minnesota
Timberwolves.

San Antonio moved closer to clinching first place in the Western
Conference, beating Minnesota 103-90 on Sunday behind 57 bench
points.

"We need to get some of that funk out," said Tim Duncan, who
had 10 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes. "We've had some
bad games and some losses at home."

The Spurs (61-19), who host Utah on Monday, need one more win or
one more Dallas loss to seal the Southwest Division title and
secure home-court advantage until the NBA Finals with the West's
top seed. The Mavericks (60-21) beat the Jazz 111-95 later Sunday
night.

"You have letdowns sometimes and you lose games like this, but
we came in here and I thought we took care of business the right
way," Duncan said.

Tony Parker had 11 points in 17 minutes for San Antonio, which
met little resistance from the Timberwolves -- who have shut down
Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis for the season with minor injuries.
The real purpose, though, is to let first-year coach Dwane Casey
and the front office further evaluate a handful of young players
with postseason qualification no longer a worry.

One of those under heavy scrutiny has been point guard Marcus
Banks, acquired three months ago in the big trade with Boston that
brought Davis to Minnesota and sent Wally Szczerbiak to the
Celtics.

Though he and Rashad McCants showed their share of defensive
lapses, Banks scored 25 points on 10-for-11 shooting from the foul
line. McCants had 20 points, and rookie Bracey Wright added 13
points.

"It's a great learning experience for all these guys," Casey
said.

With NBA rebounding leader Garnett gone, the Spurs owned a 46-29
edge on the boards, a 20-6 advantage in second-chance points and
did whatever they wanted to on offense. Reserves like Beno Udrih
(15 points in 22 minutes), Brent Barry (14 points in 22 minutes)
and Fabricio Oberto were given extended time in the second half.

"I thought we came out with too much respect at the beginning
of the game," Casey said, "and we were on our heels instead of
coming out attacking."

San Antonio, which finishes the regular season at Houston on
Wednesday, can break the franchise record for victories by winning
the last two games. The 1994-95 team went 62-20.

The Wolves (33-48), meanwhile, are on the way to their worst
finish since they went 26-56 in 1995-96, Garnett's rookie year.
They play once more, against Memphis on Wednesday.

Announced attendance was 15,237 for this sleepy game that looked
more like a preseason scrimmage in terms of intensity and sounded
like one, too, in terms of crowd noise.

"That's how I felt out there -- like we were alone in the
woods," Banks said, smiling.

Duncan opened the second half with a 3-pointer to put the Spurs
up 59-35, and they built a lead as big as 31 points before Banks
and McCants brought Minnesota back against San Antonio's second
string.

McCants capped a 22-9 Timberwolves run with a 3-pointer that
closed the third quarter.

These teams were once real rivals, a competition highlighted by
the Duncan-Garnett matchup that bloomed in a first-round playoff
series in 2001. These days, with Minnesota on its way to the
lottery for a second straight year, there's little buzz.

Especially without Garnett.

"He and Timmy always have some great battles. ... To not see
him on the court is very strange, knowing what a competitor he
is," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.

Game notes
The last time the Spurs swept a season series from the
Timberwolves was 1994-95. Manu Ginobili returned from a three-game
absence (bruised calf and shin) to score 14 points in 24 minutes
for San Antonio. ... Minnesota has reduced season-ticket prices on
more than 12,200 seats for next season. Nearly 5,000 seats will
cost more. ... Fred Hoiberg, who sat out this season after heart
surgery, has called a Monday news conference to discuss his
basketball future. After playing the last two years with the
Wolves, Hoiberg was a special assistant for the team this season.