Ginobili practices five-on-five

By Mike Monroe

Before he would allow injured two-time All-Star guard Manu Ginobili to suit up for another game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich decided he wanted to see him go through a full practice, including a five-on-five scrimmage.

Such a practice took place Saturday morning at the Spurs’ training facility, but Ginobili’s availability for tonight’s game against the Denver Nuggets at the ATT Center officially remains a game-time decision.

If you ask his teammates, however, Ginobili appears ready.

“He played great today in practice,” forward Matt Bonner said. “He went live and went hard, and he’s doing what Manu does — playing with a lot of energy and making hustle plays, scoring and passing.”

Bonner knew better than to guess Popovich’s decision about Ginobili’s availability.

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” he said, “but he looked good today is all I can say.”

Ginobili missed 22 games with a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand, an injury incurred Jan. 2 in a loss to the Timberwolves in Minneapolis. He returned for four games before suffering a strained left oblique in the Spurs’ overtime victory over the Clippers at Staples Center on Feb. 18.

The Spurs have won 18 of 27 games without their high-energy starting shooting guard.

Talking practice: Practice time has been a rare commodity during the compressed, 66-game season. But the seven-game post-All-Star break homestand that covers 18 days already has given the Spurs time for three practice sessions.

“With the schedule as it is, we have two weeks at home, so we’ll probably have practices every other day,” said guard Gary Neal. “It’s good. You come in here and get up a good sweat and go over some defensive concepts and get those fresh in your mind and get ready to play the next game.”

The practice time has been especially important for players coming off injuries. In addition to Ginobili, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard were able to regain some rhythm and continuity.

“It’s a little bit of normalcy these two weeks while we’re at home to take advantage of that time and work on some things in practice,” Bonner said. “It’s also good for guys coming off injuries. It gives them a chance to try and get their rhythm back.”

Statistical minutiae: The 102-72 victory over the Bobcats on Friday night was the Spurs’ largest margin of victory this season. The scoring in Friday’s game was split evenly between starters and bench players, 51 apiece. The Spurs had a season-high 55 rebounds against the Bobcats. @Monroe_SA

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