NBA: Spurs, minus 3 starters, improve to 30-0 at home
SAN ANTONIO — Manu Ginobili returned to give the short-handed San Antonio Spurs a needed boost as they remained perfect at home and extended the franchise’s best start.
Kawhi Leonard had 25 points and 13 rebounds and Ginobili added a season-high 22 points in his return from a gruesome injury, leading San Antonio to a 104-94 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night as the Spurs improved to 30-0 at home this season.
San Antonio won its eighth straight and extended its franchise-record start through 62 games to 53-9 despite the absence of starters LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan and Danny Green.
Ginobili played 15 minutes in his return from a 12-game absence, shooting 8 for 11 and showing no physical or psychological effects from testicle surgery on Feb. 5.
“What happened on the court was very unexpected,” Ginobili said. “When (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) told me I was going to play a few minutes, I said, ‘Great.’ It’s OK if I don’t shoot, I just want to play, and then the game developed like that. It felt good.”
Wearing a protective cup, the 38-year-old veteran fearlessly drove between Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein and Omri Casspi from the right side of the key to score on a left-handed layup on the left side of the rim in the third quarter. Ginobili earlier stood in front of a charging Cauley-Stein and fouled the 7-foot center while stripping him of the ball on the layup attempt.
“It was kind of unexpected his first game back,” Sacramento reserve guard Darren Collison said. “You would think he would have a little bit rust, but he’s a Hall of Fame player for a reason. He’s a real good player; he’s been doing that for a very long time. He was slicing and dicing our defense, whether it was with the pass or the shot. As soon as he came in the game, he gave them a good lift.”
The dynamic Argentine’s return was a needed boost with Duncan and Green sitting out to rest and Aldridge out due to a migraine headache. David West had 12 points and Boris Diaw added 11 points in place of Duncan and Aldridge. The Spurs’ reserves outscored the Kings’ backups 54-26 despite having a few of its key personnel in the starting lineup.
“I didn’t think three of their starters were out,” Sacramento coach George Karl said. “Pop rotates that team, if Danny Green isn’t giving it, someone else will give it. It’s a bunch of revolving pieces.”
DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo had an easier time running the pick-and-roll with Duncan and Aldridge out. Quincy Acy also benefited early, scoring 14 points in the first half on 6-for-6 shooting. Cousins finished with 31 points.
Acy only had two points in the second half, though, as the Spurs’ interior defense stiffened.
Sacramento, which went scoreless for six minutes in a loss to Memphis on Wednesday, was unable to score in the opening 5 1/2 minutes of the second half.
“The last three games our second halves have been really good defensively,” Popovich said.
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