Even Manu Ginobili thought the San Antonio Spurs’ incredible winning streak was over.
Nothing was falling and the Minnesota Timberwolves were dominating them down low like few others have. But the veteran Spurs didn’t give in even when it appeared to be over, dealing the young Wolves another painful lesson in the process.
Ginobili scored 14 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to rally the Spurs from 21 points down for their 12th straight victory, 113-109 in overtime on Wednesday night.
Richard Jefferson added 19 points and Tony Parker had 18 points and six assists for the Spurs, who didn’t lead until there were 49 seconds to play in overtime, but still improved to an NBA-best 13-1.
"I thought there was no chance we were going to win it," Ginobili said. "We were down 20, nothing was falling, we’re not playing with the kind of aggressiveness and energy that you need to overcome a deficit like that. I thought it was going to be a loss. Then slowly, very slowly, we started to recover."
Kevin Love had 32 points and 22 rebounds, and Darko Milicic had 22 points, eight rebounds and five blocks for the Timberwolves, who blew a fourth-quarter lead for the third time this season.
"The few games that we lost, it kind of got in our heads," Milicic said. "We’re thinking too much. We’re just not enjoying playing basketball in the fourth quarter. It’s kind of like we’re scared to win. I don’t know why. We’re up 20, just keep playing."
After a horrid shooting start to the game, the Spurs hit 6-of-10 3s in the fourth. Gary Neal was fouled on a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left in regulation and hit all three free throws to tie it at 106.
The Spurs missed 17 of their first 19 3-pointers, but Matt Bonner’s 3 from the elbow gave them their first lead of the game with 49 seconds to go in overtime.
"I thought our guys showed really good perseverance and that it’s a 48-minute game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "If you just keep chugging, something can happen for you and it worked for us. We’re thrilled with the victory because I thought they played very, very well."
Once again, the youngest team in the league couldn’t find out a way to close a game. The Wolves’ offense grew stagnant in the fourth quarter as the Spurs made their run, and you could feel them tighten up as the score got closer and closer.
Tim Duncan had nine points and 13 rebounds, but was thoroughly outplayed by Love and Milicic down low for most of the game.
Wolves coach Kurt Rambis called it his team’s best performance of the season. The youngsters were devastated in the locker room after the game, but the coach is doing his best to keep their heads up as they simply wait to get more experience.
"It’s all part of it," Rambis said. "It’s being able to be in those situation multiple times over many years. … Guys just didn’t have the poise and confidence to be able to make the right decisions at the right times in crucial junctures of the ballgame."
The Spurs rolled into Target Center with the best record in the league, having won every game since a 99-90 loss to New Orleans on Oct. 30, the second game of the season.
Perhaps taking the Wolves a little too lightly early, the Spurs slumped through a listless first three quarters. They shot just 32.6 percent in the first half and missed 12 of their 13 3-pointers, an uncharacteristically poor shooting start for the team that led the NBA in 3-point shooting at 44 percent coming into the night.
Love and Milicic owned Duncan, DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter down low, combining for 29 points and 18 rebounds in the first half as the Wolves built an 18-point lead.
The breathing room didn’t help the young Wolves, who have struggled to hold leads all season. They settled for too many quick jump shots early in possessions during a particularly stagnant stretch in the third quarter that allowed the veteran Spurs to creep back into it.
Michael Beasley had an off night with 11 points and nine boards on 5-for-12 shooting and he committed three costly turnovers in the fourth quarter and overtime.
"I don’t even notice it," Popovich said of the streak. "Every game is a game and we don’t even think about it. We’ll lose our share, it will end like every other streak."
NOTES: San Antonio has won 13 in a row over the Wolves. … Milicic had seven turnovers. … Timberwolves TV analyst Jim Petersen had a mild heart attack on Wednesday and missed the game. The team said he is resting comfortably at a local hospital. … The Spurs signed G Ime Udoka and he played 3 minutes.