Leonard, Spurs roll past Timberwolves 123-97
SAN ANTONIO (AP) The San Antonio Spurs were on their way to a blowout victory when they got a big scare.
San Antonio lost Manu Ginobili to a sprained right ankle in the third quarter of a 123-97 win over the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.
''He will be out for a good week, I'm sure,'' coach Gregg Popovich said. ''A week to 10 days.''
It looked as if Ginobili would be out for a much longer period after he went up for a one-handed rebound and landed on the side of Gorgui Dieng's left foot with 43 seconds left in the third.
The 13-year veteran remained on the court for a couple of minutes, rocking on his side and holding his right ankle in agony. He was helped to the back by Tim Duncan and Spurs trainer Will Sevening, hopping on his left foot and unable to place any weight on the injured ankle.
''Fortunately, it's not as bad as they thought,'' Duncan said. ''Hopefully he can be back pretty quickly. We need what he brings to our game.''
Ginobili was one of eight Spurs in double figures, finishing with 11 points. San Antonio shot 58 percent from the field and set a season high with 38 assists.
''That's what they do, they all play as a unit,'' Minnesota forward Andrew Wiggins said. ''They swing the ball. If one person doesn't have the shot, they swing it, swing it. They are a very unselfish team, that's why they are one of the best teams in the league.''
Kawhi Leonard scored 15 points for San Antonio, and Danny Green and Marco Belinelli had 13 apiece.
The Spurs (41-24), who were coming off a 128-125 overtime loss to Kyrie Irving and Cleveland on Thursday night, moved into fifth place in the Western Conference for the first time since Dec. 14.
''We're turning that corner,'' Duncan said. ''We're heading in the right direction. A huge loss the last game; felt like we gave that one away, but other than that, we're on the right track. We got the guys starting to feel their own rhythms and starting to play well. We're feeding off of that.''
The Spurs were unable to overcome Irving's 57 points in the loss to the Cavs, but they bounced back quite nicely against the lowly Timberwolves. San Antonio opened the game on an 8-2 run and never trailed.
The Timberwolves had only eight players available due to injuries. Kevin Martin scored 19 points, Zach LaVine had 18 and Wiggins finished with 13.
Leonard's defense on Wiggins played a key role in a 13-0 run midway through the third quarter that lifted San Antonio to an 86-56 lead. The Spurs outscored the Timberwolves 33-13 in the period.
Leonard stripped Wiggins and fed Green for a fast-break layup during the decisive run and then stripped Wiggins again near half-court, eventually leading to a running one-handed dunk by Tiago Splitter off Green's pass.
''Kawhi Leonard had a first half that he probably didn't want to have,'' Martin said. ''I'm sure Pop let him know about it and he came out and just changed the whole game.''
Leonard had five of San Antonio's 13 steals.
''Just going out there with a focus of getting my game going defensively and just letting it fall into place,'' Leonard said.
Timberwolves: G Ricky Rubio (sore right ankle) was listed as probable, but did not play. F Kevin Garnett (sore left knee) and C Nikola Pekovic (sore right ankle) did not play after being listed as questionable. ... The Timberwolves have nine players on their roster in either their rookie or second season in the NBA. The only such player for the Spurs is Kyle Anderson, who is currently playing for their NBA Development League team.
Spurs: C Aron Baynes went to the locker room during the third quarter after being hit in the chest. ''He is spasming right now,'' Popovich said. ''But I don't know what that's going to mean until tomorrow probably.'' ... Duncan had six rebounds, giving him 14,511 for his career. He is within one of Garnett for eighth on the NBA's career list. Boston Celtics Hall of Famer Robert Parish is in seventh with 14,715 career rebounds.
Timberwolves: Host Brooklyn on Monday.
Spurs: Visit New York on Tuesday.
TRAVELING, REMEMBER THAT?
Popovich and Minnesota coach Flip Saunders both took issue with the lack of calls for traveling. Saunders first told official Tom Washington, ''I learned (what traveling is) in seventh grade.'' A few plays later Popovich smiled when he asked official Leroy Richardson, ''Traveling? Is that still a point of emphasis?'' Saunders and Popovich then laughed and shrugged their shoulders at each other.
Garnett and Duncan have had many battles during their 18-plus years in the league, especially during the postseason during Garnett's initial run with the Timberwolves. The battles were typically heated, with Garnett continually trash-talking Duncan. Duncan was asked if he missed not getting the opportunity to face Garnett on Sunday.
''Um, no particular thoughts,'' Duncan said. ''I assumed he was going to be there and it would have been great, but I don't think it changes anything.''