Richard Jefferson had 19 points, nine rebounds and three assists in his first start in seven games to help the Spurs to a 103-85 victory over the Timberwolves on Friday night.
George Hill had 19 points and eight assists and Duncan had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Spurs, who have won six of their last seven games, including two of three without the injured Parker.
"We're right in the mix of things, and we're trying to move up and try to jockey for some position so every win is a good win right now," Duncan said.
Wayne Ellington scored 17 points for the Timberwolves, who have lost eight in a row and 14 of their last 15 games. They actually held a lead midway through the second quarter, but San Antonio outscored them 26-8 over the next eight minutes to send them hurtling to yet another loss in a season full of them.
"They need a win is what they need," coach Kurt Rambis said. "Guys establish winning attitudes and losing attitudes and right now, our guys feel when things go bad, it's here we go again."
Maybe for the Spurs, as well.
Things looked ominous for the Spurs when Parker broke his right hand on March 6. But they took the Cavaliers to the wire and have beat up on the Knicks and Timberwolves to get a little momentum going.
They kept it going against a Timberwolves team that may have folded up the tents on this season. The Wolves have just one victory since Feb. 6 and this young club is starting to show its frustrations.
After a loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday, the team's two best players -- Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, who was out on Friday with a sprained left foot -- questioned Rambis' defensive game plan, and Love said he was still confused about his role in the offense.
Rambis said he recognized the losses -- 52 in all to this point -- are starting to take their toll. The effort on defense is lacking, the turnovers come in bunches and the long faces are omnipresent.
Case in point: The Wolves scored just 15 points in the third quarter on Friday night, and wilted after San Antonio opened the period with a 12-2 run to take a 63-45 lead.
"We came out at halftime and we just laid an egg," Rambis said.
Jefferson had 13 points and nine rebounds for Minnesota.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich inserted Jefferson into the starting lineup for the first time in seven games, and he gave San Antonio plenty of energy early, scoring six points, grabbing four rebounds and getting two assists in the opening quarter.
The high-flyer was supposed to bring that kind of juice to the Spurs on a nightly basis when he came over from Milwaukee, but he hasn't played up to his $14 million salary. He started the night averaging a modest 11.9 points and 2.5 rebounds this year managed just three points combined in the last two games. That includes a scoreless 18 minutes against the Knicks on Wednesday that he called the worst game of his career, including college.
But he was much more active on Friday night, slashing to the rim and pouncing on loose balls for easy put-backs.
"With that body at that position he should do that quite often," Popovich said of the 6-foot-7 Jefferson. "I was real pleased he got nine rebounds and he was aggressive offensively. That's what we're looking for."
Maybe Jefferson was just saving himself for the stretch run. The proud veteran team, which has a history of starting slow in the regular season and turning it on for the playoffs, started the night in seventh place in the Western Conference, just a half game ahead of eighth-seeded Portland.
It couldn't come at a better time for the Spurs, who play the Clippers before a grueling stretch of seven games that includes Orlando, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, the Lakers, Cleveland and Boston.
"I've been inconsistent, up-and-down, up-and-down, one good game here, struggle here," Jefferson said. "I haven't had those few weeks of playing quality basketball, so that's probably been a frustration. Just for me it's something I pride myself on is just consistency."
After scoring 66 points in the previous two games, Ginobili had just six against Minnesota. ... Timberwolves F Ryan Hollins served the second of a two-game suspension for altercations with DeShawn Stevenson and Dirk Nowitzki against the Mavericks on Monday. ... The Timberwolves now leave on a 10-day road trip, starting with a game in Sacramento on Sunday.