SAN ANTONIO - To Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis, Manu Ginobili is one of the most dangerous players in the NBA.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, the Spurs guard was at his best Tuesday night.
Ginobili scored 14 points, had 10 assists and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Spurs to a 117-99 victory over Minnesota.
"He just creates so much havoc with his energy," Rambis said. "His ability to crash the glass, get steals, play defence, shoot long shots, penetrate and find guys open ... He just plays an unorthodox style of basketball that makes it difficult to cover."
Ginobili received plenty of offensive support from Richard Jefferson, who scored 24 points. He made monster dunks, reverse layups and sank four three-pointers as the Spurs (18-11) rolled to their third straight victory.
Jefferson scored almost every way possible except from the free throw line. Despite several strong drives to the basket, he never drew a foul.
Roger Mason Jr. added 18 points, including four three-pointers, for the Spurs who have won nine of 11.
San Antonio's recent run of success means little to its hard-to-please coach.
"All I care about is how we're playing and if we're improving," Gregg Popovich said. "We have a long way to go."
Al Jefferson led Minnesota with 20 points. Kevin Love scored 18 and Jonny Flynn 17 for the Wolves (7-25), who have lost 10 straight to San Antonio.
Ginobili impressed with his passing as much as his shooting. He threaded passes to Mason and Jefferson and found Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair open under the basket.
"Tonight was probably one of his best all around games," Popovich said. "He played well defensively. He rebounded fantastically and offensively, he looked like Manu. Everybody is excited to see him play that way."
On the day they acquired swingman Alando Tucker from the Phoenix Suns, the Wolves fell short in their attempt to win three straight for the first time in nearly a year.
Minnesota had no answer for the Spurs' outside shooting. San Antonio made 50 per cent of their three-point attempts.
The Spurs took control in the second period. They held the Wolves to 38.3 per cent shooting in the first half with a tight, suffocating defence. And they rode the perimeter scoring of Ginobili and Mason to build a 66-52 halftime lead.
Mason sank three three-pointers en route to 13 first half points. Ginobili made two shots beyond the arc. He finished the half with 13 points and four assists.
Behind Love, Flynn and Al Jefferson, the Wolves pulled within nine three times in the third but never got any closer.
Richard Jefferson started the third with a reverse layup. He began the final period with back-to-back three-pointers, giving the Spurs a 95-73 lead and allowed Popovich to rest Duncan and Tony Parker. With 7:11 to play, fans rose to their feet and applauded, the game essentially over. Shortly thereafter, little-used San Antonio reserve Malik Hairston entered. Another teammate who gets little playing time, Marcus Haislip, joined him a minute later.
Jefferson's improved play over the past few weeks has helped key the Spurs' surge. The 6-foot-7 forward is averaging 14.5 points and shooting 52.5 percent shooting in the last 11 games after averaging 8.9 points on 33.3 percent in his previous seven
I think RJ just needed to realize he doesn't have to take over the game like his other teams and just needed to start playing defense and learn the spurs system. I believe that's a lot to learn for any player.
Also he needs to realize the refs don't give the Spurs a lot of calls and he has to get used to that too.
nets fan here. just caught the loss to portland on TNT.
regarding RJ, it looks like he's missing some of the explosiveness he used to have. now granted, he hustled on his defensive assignments, but he does seem to get beaten more easily now when his man puts on a burst of speed. also, i noticed him getting one hand on a lot of rebounds but unable to finish most of them off. with a little quicker, higher vertical leap i think he would have had many of those instead of just accidentally directing them to another area of the floor.
beyond that, i'm not real sure that the spurs are getting the most out of him on the offensive end. most of the time he seems to set up on the extreme wings and play the bowen role, simply waiting for a pass. and he's not bad at shooting from there, but then again he's not especially good there, either (.356 on threes, according to nba.com). he also spent a lot of time running to the top of the arc to set picks for parker, or getting the ball to duncan on the mid box.
well, okay... those are useful things. just seems like they're not so special as to pay a guy $14 million for. i mean, one of his biggest assets used to be slashing to the hoop and drawing fouls, yet i didn't see that in evidence tonight.
also, seems to me like the spurs could spend more time moving the ball around to find easy shots, ala the kings from the early 2000's, to name one example. right now the ball spends a lot of time in the hands of parker at the arc and duncan in the box, and therefore most of the assists come from drive-and-kicks and passes out of the double teams to the waiting shooters. but most players need to touch the ball a little bit to improve their shooting stroke, and RJ is probably one of them. and he's also quite good at moving the ball around, so to me it further increases the need for the spurs to move the ball more crisply and with more diversity. this is probably part of what has held RJ back this season.
granted he's lost some explosiveness, but unless pop changes the way RJ is used, i don't think you're ever going to get full value from him... maybe not even good value for him.