SAN ANTONIO -- San Antonio rookie reserve center Boban Marjanovic has found a solid place in the Spurs' rotation with a lot of hard work and the refined ability to make things happen when he gets his chances.
It helps that the Spurs, perhaps more than any team in the NBA, understand how to work in new players to make their potent lineup even more dangerous.
Marjanovic scored nine of his 17 points in a crucial four-and-a-half-minute stretch of the third quarter as the San Antonio Spurs shrugged off a ragged start to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 101-95 on Monday to stay undefeated at home this season.
Minnesota got within 98-94 in the final minute on two free throws by reserve guard Zach LaVine and a running jumper by forward Andrew Wiggins but failed to convert another chance after a steal with 35 seconds remaining.
San Antonio guard Tony Parker hit one of two free throws with 26.7 seconds to play to push the Spurs' lead to 99-94 and they were able to convert enough free throws at the end to secure the win.
Forward Kawhi Leonard also had 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Spurs (27-6), marking the 22nd time this season he's led or tied for the team-lead in scoring. But it was the 7-foot-3 Marjanovic, a Serbian in his first year with the Spurs, who made the plays that helped San Antonio brush off the Timberwolves' upset bit.
Marjanovic went 7-of-7 from the floor and hit three of his four free throws to show he's more than just a big body in the middle.
"I try to be useful -- I help my teammates and they help me with my offense," Marjanovic said. "It's good; we play together and they use my height and I feel comfortable when I go out on the court."
The win was San Antonio's 18th straight at in the AT&T Center, building on its best home start and expanding its home win-streak to 27 games dating back to the final nine home contests of 2014-15.
The Timberwolves (11-20) lost their fourth straight game and have dropped eight of their past 10 contests. Minnesota was led by Wiggins' 18 points, while LaVine added 15 points and forward Kevin Garnett, guard Tayshaun Prince and center Karl-Anthony Towns each scored 10 points for the Timberwolves.
"We did lot of good things tonight," Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said. "When you are a young team like we are sometimes you just find a different way to lose games. But I was happy with effort we had and I'll take that the rest of the way because we will win some games playing like that."
Minnesota scored the first 10 points and eventually forged a 20-8 lead after a pull-up jumper by Garnett at the 5:52 mark of the first quarter. But the Spurs caught fire, outscoring the Timberwolves 16-4 over the following three and a half minutes, pulling even at 24-24 on back-to-back baskets from Marjanovic.
The Timberwolves led 27-26 at the end of the quarter but the momentum belonged to San Antonio.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was ejected with Minnesota leading 47-45 with 1:13 remaining in the second quarter after coming on the court to argue a call with referee Lauren Holtkamp.
Popovich headed straight to the Spurs' dressing room and the Timberwolves led 52-50 at halftime behind 11 points from Wiggins and eight from Garnett, more than twice his season average.
The Timberwolves led by as much as seven points in the third quarter after a jumper by off a Rubio assist at the 6:08 mark gave Minnesota a 65-58 advantage.
But the second half of the quarter belonged to Marjanovic, who scored nine points over the final 4:47 of the period and pushed the Spurs to a 76-72 lead with a quarter to play.
"In the second half, we came out with a different attitude and we showed some toughness with our play," said Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina, who took over the team after Popovich was tossed. "We dove for loose balls, we got an extra possession on the offensive glass and we got a block. We got the win and can be proud for the way the game developed."
San Antonio opened the fourth quarter with a ringing 3-pointer from Mills, a driving hook from Ginobili and forward LaMarcus Aldridge's layup off an assist for Ginobili that put the Timberwolves into an 83-76 hole.
"We have to do more than learn from these games -- it's time for us to win," Rubio said. "We played a lot better than we did the last time we played them, but we missed too many free throws (Minnesota made only 14 of 24 from the charity stripe) and didn't take advantage of the chances we had at the end of the game."
NOTES: Spurs F Tim Duncan did not play Monday because of soreness in his right knee. It was the second straight game Duncan missed after sitting out to rest Saturday versus Denver. ... With the win tonight, the Spurs are just the third Western Conference team in history to open a season 18-0 at home, joining Portland (1977-78) and Houston (1985-86). ... Through the Spurs' opening 33 games, 10 of their wins have been by 20 or more points. ... San Antonio beat the Timberwolves 108-83 in Minneapolis in the two teams' first meeting this season and has won six straight against Minnesota. ... During their three-game losing streak entering Monday's contest, the Timberwolves had been outscored by an average of 17.7 points per game and outrebounded by 12 boards per game. ...Minnesota F Andrew Wiggins had led the team in scoring in 16 of its 31 games and has scored at least 20 points in 20 games, including four with 30 points or more.