Game rewind: Manu demands back-to-back action and thrives because of it

Manu Ginobili was ready and determined to play Wednesday night.

Recent reports that Ginobili’s action in back-to-back games would be limited proved to be a little premature as he rehabilitates from a recent hip flexor.

Ginobili told FOX Sports Southwest after the Spurs’ 117-112 victory over Sacramento that he wanted to play against the Kings.

It led Ginobili to tell Spurs coach Gregg Popovich he wanted to test himself in a back-to-back game for the first time this season. Coming off the bench, Ginobili responded with a team-high 20 points.

“I asked him to play this back-to-back because I was starting to feel good and I need to play,” Ginobili said. “I’m starting to feel better and I wanted to be with the guys and play.”

The Spurs still have a tough 17-game schedule looming over the remaining 29 days of the season. Ginobili doesn’t promise to play in all of them. But at least on Wednesday, he wanted to be in the lineup.

“I’m not sure if I’m going to play whenever we play that back-to-back-to-back, because that’s too much and kind of risky and we’re doing pretty well,” Ginobili said. “But I asked today to play because I was ready.”

The Spurs’ deep bench will enable Popovich to bring Ginobili along as he wants.

But after Wednesday night, Ginobili had cleared one remaining hurdle.

Here’s a detailed look at the Spurs’ sixth straight victory of the season — made even more impressive because they have been played over the last eight nights.

The game, simply stated: Even with some defensive ruts along the way, the Spurs employed sizzling shooting down the stretch to complete a wire-to-wire victory that was their fifth victory in six nights.

Where the game was won: After Isaiah Thomas’ 3-pointer pulled the Kings within 93-92 with 7:06 left, the Spurs put the game away with a 10-4 run that included Tony Parker’s driving layup, two baskets from Tim Duncan and hoops from Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard. The rookie’s 7-foot running jumper with 3:48 gave the Spurs a 103-96 advantage with 3:48 left.

A little too close for comfort?: Two foul shots by Jason Thompson pulled the Kings within 103-98 with 3:04 left. But a long jumper by Jackson and a 3-pointer by Parker — both coming on assists from Duncan — iced the victory.

Close but never ahead: Sacramento cut the Spurs lead to one point on seven occasions in the third quarter and nine times in the second half, but never tied the game or went ahead.

Player of the game I: Ginobili came off the bench to score 20 points on 8 of 12 from the field, three 3-pointers and five assists.

Player of the game II: Leonard played with a confidence that belied his rookie season. He scored 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting, three 3-pointers, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Player of the game III: Thomas erupted for a career-high 28 points, along with four rebounds and a team-high 10 assists.

Most unsung: This is the first time all season that Tony Parker has earned this mention. He produced only 10 points, more than nine below his season average. But he also provided seven rebounds,  seven assists and two steals. .

Attendance: The days when Phil Jackson complained about the Arco Arena as the NBA’s noisiest facility are a long time removed. The Kings have some exciting young players and a new arena on the horizon. But they still drew a crowd of just 13,119 for the Spurs — more than 4,000 below the building’s capacity. Sacramento has attracted four sellout crowds this season, but two came for their first two home games of the season.

Did you notice I: Popovich was like a kid with a new toy as he tweaked his rotation. He had already employed 11 players before the end of the first quarter.  And nine of them scored.

Did you notice II: The Spurs continued to pound the ball inside as they have throughout the recent winning streak. In the second half, San Antonio had 22 two-point baskets, with 17 hoops coming on points in the paint.

Stat of the game I:The Spurs claimed their sixth straight victory and their 13th road game in their last 15. Before that stretch, the Spurs had lost eight of their first 10 road games of the season.

Stat of the game II: San Antonio’s winning streak is the longest current streak in the league and their 9-1 record in the last 10 games is the best in the league.

Stat of the game III: The San Antonio bench was its most dominant element as the Spurs’ substitutes outscored Sacramento’s non-starters, 55-20.

Stat of the game IV: After struggling the several games, the Spurs’ perimeter game returned with 10 3-pointers in 20 attempts for 50 percent. It was their most 3-pointers since hitting 11 in Dallas on March 17 — a stretch of six games. The Spurs shot at 50 percent for the first time since beating Orlando on March 14 — an eight-game stretch.

Stat of the game V: Parker notched his 10th double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 assists. It was his fourth double-double in his last eight games.

Stat of the game VI: The Spurs claimed their seventh straight victory in Sacramento and their 13th triumph in their last 14 games  against the Kings.

Stat of the game VII: Dominating inside, the Spurs racked up 60 points in the paint, marking the eighth straight game they have reached at least 50 paint points and 10th in their last 12 games. They have reached 60 points in four games this season, including three times in their last 12 games.

Stat of the game VIII: The Spurs set a season record by hitting 67.5 percent from the field (27 of 40). They also achieved a feat  by hitting 65 percent from the field in the third quarter and 70 percent in the fourth. It was the only time this season the Spurs shot at least 60 percent in the third and fourth quarters of the same game.

Weird stat of the night I: The Spurs had only two players with more than 30 minutes —  Leonard (33:12) and Parker (31:21). 

Weird stat of the night II: Parker matched his season high with seven rebounds and also led the team with seven defensive  rebounds. Leonard and Duncan were next with five defensive rebounds apiece.

Weird stat of the night III: The Spurs shot 70 percent in the third quarter and were still outscored by Sacramento, 29-28.

Weird stat of the night IV: Matt Bonner logged 23 seconds of playing time at the end of the first quarter for his only game action. It was his shortest playing stint since logging seven seconds against Phoenix on Feb. 28, 2010.

Weird stat of the night V: The Spurs improved their shooting in each quarter in Wednesday’s game, hitting 40.7 percent in the first quarter, 45.8 percent in the second quarter, 65 percent in the third quarter and 70 percent in the fourth quarter. It’s the second time they have accomplished that feat this season after also doing it against Atlanta on Jan. 25.

Weird stat of the night VI: The Spurs never trailed for  their eighth wire-to-wire victory this season.

Not a good sign: The Spurs permitted  Sacramento to hit 54.7 percent from the field. It was the highest opponent field-goal percentage since Portland hit 59.3 percent in its blowout victory over the Spurs on Feb. 21. The Spurs allowed opponents to shoot 50 percent or better in five of their first 10 games and eight of their first 18 games. Since then, opponents have reached 50 percent or better in only five of their last 31 games.

Best plus/minus scores: Leonard, Duncan and Parker shared the team lead, all at plus-14. Stephen Jackson was at plus-8.

Worst plus/minus scores: Tiago Splitter was minus-9, Neal was minus-6 and James Anderson was minus-5.

Quote of the game: “They play like a championship team. They play together and they look like they love playing together. That’s  a team we need to look up to because they are very solid in every area,” Sacramento rookie guard Isaiah Thomas, to the Associated Press about his respect for the Spurs.

How the schedule stacks up: The Spurs stayed in Sacramento Wednesday night and won’t play again until Saturday night at home against Indiana. They then will have a back-to-back Tuesday night in Cleveland and Wednesday night in Boston. Sacramento travels to Utah for a Friday game before home games Saturday against New Jersey and Monday against Minnesota.

Injuries: The Spurs had a complete roster with no injuries for the first time since the trade deadline and utilized 13 players. Sacramento was missing G John Salmons (sore right hip). G Marcus Thornton hit his head on the floor during a wild scramble at the end of the third  uarter. He was tested for a concussion, but returned to play 7:19 in the fourth quarter.

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