Aldridge scores 29, Spurs bounce back with win over Wolves
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Ettore Messina had a simple goal when he took over the San Antonio Spurs for two games while coach Gregg Popovich stayed home to tend to a family matter.
''The machine is a well-oiled machine,'' Messina said. ''It goes on. You try to sit at the wheel and steer and try not to mess it up. Keep it straight.''
After veering off course in Indiana, Messina steered the Spurs back on to the track in an overwhelming performance against Minnesota.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 29 points and seven rebounds to help the Spurs bounce back from a rare loss with a 116-91 victory over the Timberwolves on Tuesday night.
Kawhi Leonard scored 15 points and the Spurs (54-10) led by as many as 26 points in a game they played without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Popovich. David West scored 18 points as the Spurs shot 55.3 percent and only turned the ball over nine times.
''I thought guys came back understanding we have to be better on both ends of the floor,'' Aldridge said.
Andrew Wiggins had 23 points and eight rebounds for the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns had 19 points and nine boards, and Zach LaVine scored 15 points.
The Wolves have been playing for some time without Kevin Garnett (leg), Nikola Pekovic (foot) and Nemanja Bjelica (foot), and ran out of gas in their fourth game in five nights.
''They need to remember these losses though,'' interim coach Sam Mitchell said. ''If you're ever going to get better, if you're ever going to win, you have to remember the times where you got your butt kicked.''
The Spurs haven't dealt with much losing this season, and they responded to their 10th defeat of the season with a workman-like dismantling of the Timberwolves. Even with their three mainstays out of the lineup and their peerless coach at home tending to a family issue, they didn't miss a beat.
The Spurs shot a season-low 35 percent overall and 14 percent from 3-point range against Indiana on Monday night. They were much better against Minnesota's young and porous defense. Aldridge got whatever he wanted, peppering the Wolves with midrange jumpers and throwing down an emphatic dunk on Towns to get the Spurs going in the second quarter.
San Antonio closed the half with a 9-0 run, then just leaned on the young Wolves in the third to break it open.
The Spurs turned the ball over just three times in the first three quarters and now head home for five straight games at AT&T Center, where they are 30-0 this season.
Messina's name has started to come up in speculation about possible head coaching openings in the NBA, most notably with the Brooklyn Nets, who are owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Messina coached Russian power CSKA Moscow, but he called the discussion just that - ''speculation.''
When asked if he would be interested in pursuing a head coaching job in the league, Messina demurred.
''Look, I'm a soldier,'' Messina said. ''Whatever will happen in the future, the first person I will talk to is Pop and the second is R.C. And that's it.''
MILLER STEPS UP
Andre Miller, who was bought out by the Timberwolves and joined the Spurs at the end of February, started for Parker (toe). After playing more than 15 minutes just one time since Nov. 29, Miller had 13 points and five assists in 25 minutes. It was his first start since Dec. 9, 2013, when he was playing with the Nuggets against Washington.
''I've played against these guys my entire career and never thought I'd be on the team,'' Miller said. ''Things happen for a reason and I'm just going to continue to work hard.''
Said Towns: ''You're talking about one of the smartest teams in the NBA and you have one of the smartest players to ever play this game implemented into that offense and defense. It was a seamless fit for him.''
Spurs: Messina called Parker's injury a day-to-day situation. Duncan and Ginobili rested on the second night of a back-to-back. ... The Spurs have not lost the second game of a back-to-back this season.
Timberwolves: PG Ricky Rubio had a rough night with two points, four rebounds, three assists and four fouls in 20 minutes. ... The Wolves were outrebounded 46-35 and committed 15 turnovers.
Spurs: Host Chicago on Thursday.
Timberwolves: Visit Oklahoma City on Friday.