Jefferson leads Spurs over T-Wolves 117-99

SAN ANTONIO (AP) To Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis, Mau 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 defense, 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 3-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 3-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 percent of their 3-point attempts.

The Spurs took control in the second period. They held the Wolves to 38.3 percent shooting in the first half with a tight, suffocating defense. And they rode the perimeter scoring of Ginobili and Mason to build a 66-52 halftime lead.

Mason sank three 3-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 3-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.

NOTES: The Timberwolves haven’t won in San Antonio since Jan. 14, 2004. … The Spurs have won 17 of their last 19 games against the Wolves. … Wolves F Love collided with Spurs C Blair in the third and went down hard. He writhed on the floor for several moments as teammates crowded around. Then he rose to his feet, clutching his hip, and returned to action.

Updated December 30, 2009