SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs played well against the Minnesota Timberwolves for three quarters.
Manu Ginobili is just glad that one of those was the fourth. The Spurs' super-sub scored 16 of his 26 points in the final period to lead his team to a 99-84 victory Friday night and their sixth straight win.
After the Spurs squandered almost all of a 20-point lead during the third quarter, Ginobili took over in the fourth. He scored 11 points in a span of 1:51 — including three 3-pointers — to put them up 88-72 with just over 6 minutes to play.
"I started being more aggressive," said Ginobili, who was 5-of-5 from the field in the fourth. "So it's like a snowball. You feel more and more confident and every shot I took, it went in."
After that, the momentum never shifted back Minnesota's way.
The Spurs, who were in fifth place in the West, moved into second place and sit just percentage points behind New Orleans. San Antonio was the first team in the conference to hit the 50-win mark.
The Spurs on Sunday host the Houston Rockets, who have won 29 of their last 33 games and had an identical record to the Spurs before San Antonio's Friday win.
Tony Parker added 18 points for the Spurs and Tim Duncan had 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Ryan Gomes led the Timberwolves with 17 points and 10 boards and Al Jefferson added 14. Reserve Rashad McCants scored 13.
Ginobili has made a habit this season of playing well against Minnesota, which lost the season series to the Spurs 0-4. In the other three games against the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 31, 22, and most recently 44 points — two shy of his season high.
"He's explosive. He can score in multiple says," said Minnesota coach Randy Wittman. "It's not like he's just a shooter. He gets to the line, he gets in the lane, he can make 3s. So he's probably as good as there is. For a guy off the bench who played 25 minutes and scored 26 points, that's a pretty good sixth man."
Michael Finley, who is averaging better than 18 points in his last three games, joined the Spurs' Big Three in double-digits Friday, scoring 16. Marko Jaric and Randy Foye each had 11 for Minnesota.
A comfortable 15-point halftime lead — which increased to as much as 20 early in the third quarter — almost turned into a deficit for San Antonio. After Finley put the Spurs up 61-42 with 6:43 to go, San Antonio didn't make another field goal for 6:05.
"It worries me a little bit. I don't think we are yet in playoff shape," Ginobili said. "So we've really got to step up in these last nine games … because if not we are not going to go that far."
The Timberwolves made the most of the Spurs' drought, going on an 18-2 run led by Gomes that brought them within three points, 63-60.
"We changed our defenses up a little bit. We got them to settle, I thought, for some jumpers," Wittman said. "We became more aggressive, attacking, throwing the ball back and making the extra pass."
Ime Udoka's 3 put the Spurs back up by six, and the Spurs carried a 68-62 advantage into the final quarter.
After one quarter the Spurs were shooting just 30 percent from the field and Minnesota grabbed a 17-14 lead.
Led by Parker, who had 16 points in the half, San Antonio broke open the game in the second quarter with a 21-8 run.
Finley capped the surge with a 3-pointer — the Spurs sank five from beyond the arc in the period — to put San Antonio up 35-25 with just over five minutes left in the half.
The Spurs extended the lead to 49-34 at halftime off Finley's second 3 of the night.
Notes:@ Minnesota G Sebastian Telfair missed his 10th straight game with a sprained left ankle. … The crowd went wild when G Brent Barry, who recently returned to the Spurs after a one-month absence following a Seattle-San Antonio trade, was shown on the big screen. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said pregame it will probably be another couple of weeks before Barry returns to the court. … Duncan got a technical foul with 4:04 left in the third quarter.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.