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Timberwolves fall to Spurs

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Richard Jefferson had 19 points, nine rebounds and three assists in his first start in seven games to help the San Antonio Spurs to a 103-85 victory over the hapless Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.

George Hill had 19 points and eight assists and Tim Duncan had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Spurs, who have won six of their last seven games, including two of three without injured star Tony Parker.

Wayne Ellington scored 17 points for the Timberwolves, who have lost eight in a row and 14 of their last 15 games. They shot just 36 percent from the field and played without forward Kevin Love, who was out with a sprained left foot.

Things looked ominous for the Spurs when Parker broke his right hand on March 6. But the Spurs took the Cavaliers to the wire and have beat up on the Knicks and Timberwolves to keep a little momentum going.

They kept it going against a Timberwolves team that may have folded up the tents on this season. The Wolves have just one victory since Feb. 6 and this young club is starting to show its frustrations.

After a loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday, the team's two best players -- Al Jefferson and Love -- questioned coach Kurt Rambis's defensive game plan, and Love said he was still confused about his role in the offense.

Rambis said he recognized the losses -- 52 in all to this point -- is starting to take its toll. The effort on defense is lacking, the turnovers come in bunches and the long faces are omnipresent.

Now when things start going bad for the Wolves, they rarely put up much of a fight.

Case in point: The Wolves scored just 15 points in the third quarter on Friday night, and wilted after San Antonio opened the period with a 12-2 run to take a 63-45 lead.

Jefferson had a dunk in transition and Hill threw down an alley-oop from Ginobili to finish the spurt and get the Spurs rolling toward another victory.

Jefferson had 13 points and nine rebounds for Minnesota.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich inserted Jefferson into the starting lineup for the first time in seven games, and he gave San Antonio plenty of energy early, scoring six points, grabbing four rebounds and getting two assists in the opening quarter.

The high-flyer was supposed to give that kind of juice to the Spurs on a nightly basis when he came over from Milwaukee, but he hasn't played up to his salary in a year he will make more than $14 million.

He started the night averaging a modest 11.9 points and 2.5 rebounds this year and was one of the players Popovich referred to in the pregame who has been too inconsistent this season.

Maybe Jefferson was just saving himself for the stretch run. The proud veteran team, which has a history of starting slow in the regular season and turning it on for the playoffs, started the night in seventh place in the Western Conference, just a half game ahead of eighth-seeded Portland.

It couldn't come at a better time for the Spurs, who play the Clippers before a grueling stretch of seven games that includes Orlando, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, the Lakers, Cleveland and Boston.

NOTES: After scoring 66 points in the previous two games, Ginobili had just six in 28 minutes against Minnesota. ... Timberwolves F Ryan Hollins served the second of a two-game suspension for altercations with DeShawn Stevenson and Dirk Nowitzki against the Mavericks on Monday. ... The Timberwolves now leave on a 10-day road trip, starting with a game in Sacramento on Sunday.