They listened to their coach, holding the Timberwolves to a season-low 26 points over the final 24 minutes in a 95-82 victory.
"I just asked the guys if it wasn't that much of a problem or an inconvenience if they picked up the pressure and played a little more aggressively," Popovich said, recounting his halftime speech. "That might be a good idea."
The Timberwolves committed 17 turnovers in the second half against the suddenly defensive-minded Spurs.
"He asked us, 'Please, guys. It's a great opportunity to go play harder,'" Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "He's always so polite."
Tim Duncan, who said "we really appreciate it and responded to" Popovich's talk, scored 24 points and Tony Parker added 23 for San Antonio.
Kevin Garnett and Mark Blount each had 19 points for Minnesota. Randy Foye added 15 points for the Timberwolves and Garnett grabbed 12 rebounds.
"I thought we had an excellent game in the first half," Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey said. "In the second half they turned up the juice and we didn't respond. ... That is the best pressure I've seen all year."
Still, Duncan saw the glass half-empty.
"More important than the defensive effort in the second half was the lack of defensive effort in the first half," he said. "We were horrible in the first half. ... We put ourselves in a hole."
Aside from being plagued by turnovers, Minnesota went 1-of-11 from 3-point range. And Garnett only scored two points -- both free throws -- in the second half.
"They were double-teaming him. Crowding him," Casey said. "They did a great job of getting the ball out of our offensive point guards' hands."
The Spurs used a 10-2 run to get within 56-48 at halftime. More than halfway through the third quarter Minnesota had scored just one point and the Spurs were within one.
A 3-pointer by Brent Barry gave the Spurs a 70-69 lead and a 3 by Parker made it 73-71.
The 15 points scored by Minnesota in the third quarter were a season low, but the mark dropped 12 minutes later.
The Timberwolves had scored just five points three-fourths of the way through the final period. Parker and Duncan combined for 12 points in the quarter, one more than Minnesota managed in registering a new season low.
"We live and learn from these things," Garnett said. "I'd rather it happen now than later."
The Spurs have won six consecutive home games against Minnesota. ... The Timberwolves and Spurs meet again Jan. 3 in Minnesota. ... The Timberwolves are back at .500 (10-10). ... The Spurs are now 17-6. ... Minnesota G Mike James fouled out in the fourth quarter with just four points.