Rubio, Dieng Help Wolves Ease Past Spurs
Kevin Love had 19 points and 12 rebounds and Corey Brewer scored 14 points and the Timberwolves, who have beaten Miami and San Antonio in two of their last three games.
Kawhi Leonard had 11 points and six rebounds for the Spurs, who were playing without Tony Parker and have now lost two of three following a 19-game winning streak. Parker has a back injury, but coach Gregg Popovich said before the game he didn't believe it was that serious.
The Spurs (60-18) entered the night with a 4 1/2-game lead over Oklahoma City in the race for the best record in the NBA.
Manu Ginobili left in the third quarter with a left calf contusion, and the Spurs were just 4 for 17 from 3-point range in a listless performance. The Spurs haven't clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, but there's no doubt they would like to seal that up after losing Games 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals in Miami last season.
With the turnovers and clanked shots piling up early -- San Antonio trailed by as many as 28 in the third quarter -- Popovich played Tim Duncan just 20 minutes and went deep into his bench as he often does.
The Timberwolves were playing without Nikola Pekovic (ankle), Kevin Martin (heel), Chase Budinger (ankle) and Shabazz Muhammad (knee), and Love went just 5 for 15 from the field. But Rubio was more aggressive than he's ever been looking for his own shot and the rookie Dieng stood up well against Duncan in the paint to help the Wolves grab control early.
There was a sparse crowd for the game that was originally supposed to be played in Mexico City as part of the NBA's initiative to expand its global reach. But the originally scheduled meeting in December had to be canceled after a malfunctioning generator sent plumes of smoke into the arena about 90 minutes before tipoff.
The Spurs were disappointed to have to come up to Minnesota and see what would have been a treasured four-day break near the end of the season interrupted by the trip. And once the game started, they showed little of the fire or focus that have been hallmarks of their remarkable season.
They turned the ball over 10 times in the first half and shot under 37 percent to fall behind 54-34 at the break, their lowest point total in a half this season.
Rubio attempted a career-high 17 shots and scored nine points on 4-for-5 shooting in the first quarter, helping the Wolves withstand a 1-for-7 start from Love.
Wolves forward Dante Cunningham played 15 minutes in his first game since posting bail for his second arrest in three days. Cunningham has been charged with domestic assault for allegedly choking his girlfriend last week. He was arrested two days later for allegedly sending her threatening text messages, but authorities are still investigating those charges and Cunningham has a right to return to work under the collective bargaining agreement while the legal process plays out.
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