Spurs 103, T-wolves 90

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MINNEAPOLIS – The San Antonio Spurs moved closer to clinching first place in the Western Conference, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 103-90 behind 57 points from their bench.

Tim Duncan had 10 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes for the Spurs (61-19), who left the arena needing one more win or one more Dallas loss to seal the Southwest Division title and secure home-court advantage until the NBA Finals with the West’s top seed.

The Mavericks (59-21) hosted Utah later Sunday night.

Tony Parker had 11 points in 17 minutes for San Antonio, which met little resistance from the depleted Timberwolves. Minnesota’s two best players, Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis, have been shut down for the season with minor injuries to let first-year coach Dwane Casey and the front office further evaluate a handful of young players with postseason qualification no longer a worry.

One of those under heavy scrutiny has been point guard Marcus Banks, acquired three months ago in the big trade with Boston that brought Davis to Minnesota and sent Wally Szczerbiak to the Celtics.

Though he didn’t do much on defense to slow Parker, Banks had 25 points on 10-for-11 shooting from the foul line. Rashad McCants scored 20 points, and rookie Bracey Wright added 13 points.

With NBA rebounding leader Garnett gone, the Spurs owned a 46-29 edge on the boards and did whatever they wanted to on offense. Reserves like Beno Udrih (15 points in 22 minutes), Brent Barry (14 points in 22 minutes) and Fabricio Oberto were given extended time.

San Antonio, which hosts Utah on Monday and finishes the regular season at Houston on Wednesday, can break the franchise record for victories by winning the last two games. The 1994-95 team went 62-20.

The Wolves (33-48), meanwhile, are on the way to their worst finish since they went 26-56 in 1995-96, Garnett’s rookie year. They play once more, against Memphis on Wednesday.

Announced attendance was 15,237 for this sleepy game that looked more like a preseason scrimmage in terms of intensity and sounded like one, too, in terms of crowd noise.

Duncan opened the second half with a 3-pointer to put the Spurs up 59-35, and they built a lead as big as 31 points before Banks and McCants brought Minnesota back against San Antonio’s second string.

McCants capped a 22-9 Timberwolves run with a 3-pointer that closed the third quarter.

These teams were once real rivals, a competition highlighted by the Duncan-Garnett matchup that bloomed in a first-round playoff series in 2001. These days, with Minnesota on its way to the lottery for a second straight year, there’s little buzz.

Especially without Garnett.

“He and Timmy always have some great battles. … To not see him on the court is very strange, knowing what a competitor he is,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said before the game.

Notes: Manu Ginobili returned from a three-game absence (bruised calf and shin) to score 14 points in 24 minutes for the Spurs. … The Timberwolves have reduced season-ticket prices on more than 12,200 seats for next season. Nearly 5,000 seats will cost more.

AP-ES-04-16-06 2024EDT

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