Posted Dec 12 2006 5:30PM
The San Antonio Spurs own one of the NBA's best records thanks to a stifling defense and a dominant forward. To improve that mark they'll have to get past a surging Minnesota Timberwolves squad finding success with similar attributes.
A pair of the league's best defenses square off Wednesday when the Spurs host the Timberwolves in the first meeting between the teams this season.
San Antonio (16-6) is holding teams to just 91.3 points this season while Minnesota (10-9) has been nearly as good, allowing 92.3 a contest. The Spurs have given up 100 or more points just three times while the Timberwolves have allowed that mark on four occasions.
San Antonio had one of those rare outings Sunday in a 106-99 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, but bounced back with a strong showing Monday in beating the Los Angeles Clippers 103-81.
``Since I've been with the Spurs, we've never had two bad games in a row, so I know we were going to show a lot of pride tonight and play very hard,'' said Spurs second-leading scorer Tony Parker, who had 21 points Monday.
``We came out very strong, had a great start and we played like that basically the whole game.''
Brent Barry scored 24 points off the bench, including five 3-pointers, while Manu Ginobili scored 18 in his first start since Nov. 24 for the Spurs, who have won five of six. Leading scorer Tim Duncan had 17 points, six assists and five rebounds, continuing to fuel San Antonio's offensive attack with 21.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
Kevin Garnett has been just as consistent for the Timberwolves this season, averaging 21.6 points and 12.0 rebounds while recording a league-leading 17 double-doubles. His all-around effort Saturday helped Minnesota win its season-high fourth straight, 91-81 at Chicago.
``We're making strides,'' said Garnett, who had 18 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, four steals and three blocks. ``As a team, collectively, we're forming some chemistry. It's no definite that we'd continue to perform like this.''
Point guard Mike James has been making some of the biggest strides, averaging 19.8 points in the last five games after scoring 10.8 through the first 14 contests this season.
James and Ricky Davis each scored 15 points Saturday to help the Timberwolves open their three-game road trip on a positive note, but continuing that success may be difficult.
The Spurs have won the last five matchups between the teams in San Antonio, holding the Timberwolves to 81.2 points, and boast a 29-8 all-time mark against them there. San Antonio swept Minnesota in all four overall matchups last season and has won eight of the last 10 in the series.
Minnesota may still be without forward Mark Madsen, who is day-to-day with a partial dislocation of his right shoulder. Garnett hopes the Timberwolves will soon have a new face, however, as he has expressed his desire to play alongside Philadelphia's Allen Iverson, who has requested a trade.
``Who would be opposed to that?'' Garnett said.
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