Spurs’ Ginobili injured in regular-season finale

By Jeff McDonald

PHOENIX — The Spurs could stomach losing their season finale Wednesday night.

Losing Manu Ginobili? Now that could be a problem.

In an untimely accident, Ginobili suffered a hyperextended right elbow during the first quarter of the Spurs’ 106-103 season-ending loss at Phoenix, casting in doubt his availability for the start of the Western Conference playoffs against Memphis this weekend.

Forget ceding control of the NBA’s top overall record to Chicago. There was only one way the Spurs’ season finale could have ended in catastrophe, and it happened just 2:14 into the game.

Ginobili was coming across a Tim Duncan pick, with Suns forward Grant Hill trailing, when he appeared to get his arm pinned between his teammate and his opponent, bending the elbow backward before tumbling to the court in evident discomfort.

X-rays taken at US Airways Center were negative. Ginobili is scheduled for an MRI today, at which point the Spurs will have a better feel for a timetable.

Coming into the Spurs’ season-ending road trip to face the Lakers and Suns, coach Gregg Popovich wrestled with whether to play his regulars or rest them for the playoffs.

He ultimately decided on a plan that would call for four starters, including Ginobili, to sit Tuesday’s eventual loss at L.A., then return for the finale in Phoenix, in order to ward off rust before the playoffs began.

For the Spurs, the injury to the 33-year-old Ginobili — their leading scorer coming into the night — cast a pall over the rest of Wednesday’s game.

Marcin Gortat had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Channing Frye added 17 points as the Suns polished off their first losing season since 2003-04 by beating the West-leading Spurs, who at least began the night playing at full strength.

Phoenix raced to a 20-point lead in the first half before the Spurs made it interesting.

The Spurs (61-21) were within one, at 102-101, after George Hill’s free throws with 7.6 seconds remaining. Aaron Brooks followed with a pair of foul shots that gave Phoenix a three-point lead again.

On the ensuing possession, the Suns opted to foul Matt Bonner — the league’s top 3-point shooter — instead of giving him an open look. Bonner’s free throws brought the Spurs back within a point, but Brooks answered with two more foul shots with 3.6 seconds left.

The game was not over until Gary Neal’s corner 3-pointer missed at the horn.

While all that was playing out in Phoenix, the Spurs’ first-round playoff opponent was being decided 375 miles to the west. With three starters resting, Memphis lost 110-103 in its finale against the L.A. Clippers, ensuring an eighth-place finish and a series with the Spurs to begin either Saturday or Sunday.

Wednesday’s loss, combined with Chicago’s victory over New Jersey, also finished another piece of outstanding business. The Bulls (62-20) claimed the NBA’s top overall mark.

By the end of the night, all that seemed to matter was Ginobili’s prognosis.

Elbow hyperextensions can sideline players anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity. Atlanta guard Kirk Hinrich, then with Washington, suffered a similar injury in January and missed four games over the span of a week. Potentially aiding Ginobili’s recovery: He’s left-handed, and the injury was to his non-shooting arm.

Before the game, Popovich declared himself and his team ready for the postseason.

“We’re ready to get to the games that matter,” Popovich said.

Now, he’d just as soon postpone the postseason and give Ginobili time to heal.

And so, the Spurs returned home from Phoenix early today to await the results of an MRI. There was only one way their season-ending road trip might have been a disaster, and this was it.



Spurs vs. Memphis
(all times Central)
Sunday, April 17: Memphis at Spurs, noon
Wednesday, April 20: Memphis at Spurs, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 23: Spurs at Memphis, 6:30 p.m.
Monday, April 25: Spurs at Memphis, TBD
x-Wednesday, April 27: Memphis at Spurs, TBD
x-Friday, April 29: Spurs at Memphis, TBD
x-Sunday, May 1: Memphis at Spurs, TBD
* Spurs first-round games televised on FOX Sports Southwest

(all remaining schedules Eastern Time)

L.A. Lakers vs. New Orleans
Sunday, April 17: New Orleans at L.A. Lakers, 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 20: New Orleans at L.A. Lakers, 10:30 p.m.
Friday, April 22: L.A. Lakers at New Orleans, 9:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 24: L.A. Lakers at New Orleans, 9:30 p.m.
x-Tuesday, April 26: New Orleans at L.A. Lakers, TBD
x-Thursday, April 28: L.A. Lakers at New Orleans, TBD
x-Saturday, April 30: New Orleans at L.A. Lakers, TBD

Dallas vs. Portland
Saturday, April 16: Portland at Dallas, 9:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 19: Portland at Dallas, 9:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 21: Dallas at Portland, 10:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 23: Dallas at Portland, 5 p.m.
x-Monday, April 25: Portland at Dallas, TBD
x-Thursday, April 28: Dallas at Portland, TBD
x-Saturday, April 30: Portland at Dallas, TBD

Oklahoma City vs. Denver
Sunday, April 17: Denver at Oklahoma City, 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 20: Denver at Oklahoma City, 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 23: Oklahoma City at Denver, 10 p.m.
Monday, April 25: Oklahoma City at Denver, 10:30 p.m.
x-Wednesday, April 27: Denver at Oklahoma City, TBD
x-Friday, April 29: Oklahoma City at Denver, TBD
x-Sunday, May 1: Denver at Oklahoma City, TBD


Chicago vs. Indiana
Saturday, April 16: Indiana at Chicago, 1 p.m.
Monday, April 18: Indiana at Chicago, 9:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 21: Chicago at Indiana, TBD
Saturday, April 23: Chicago at Indiana, TBD
x-Tuesday, April 26: Indiana at Chicago, TBD
x-Thursday, April 28: Chicago at Indiana, TBD
x-Saturday, April 30: Indiana at Chicago, TBD

Miami vs. Philadelphia
Saturday, April 16: Philadelphia at Miami, 3:30 p.m.
Monday, April 18: Philadelphia at Miami, 7 p.m.
Thursday, April 21: Miami at Philadelphia, TBD
Sunday, April 24: Miami at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
x-Wednesday, April 27: Philadelphia at Miami, TBD
x-Friday, April 29: Miami at Philadelphia, TBD
x-Sunday, May 1: Philadelphia at Miami, TBD

Boston vs. New York
Sunday, April 17: New York at Boston, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, April 19: New York at Boston, 7 p.m.
Friday, April 22: Boston at New York, TBD
Sunday, April 24: Boston at New York, 3:30 p.m.
x-Tuesday, April 26: New York at Boston, TBD
x-Friday, April 29: Boston at New York, TBD
x-Sunday, May 1: New York at Boston, TBD

Orlando vs. Atlanta
Saturday, April 16: Atlanta at Orlando, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, April 19: Atlanta at Orlando, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 22: Orlando at Atlanta, TBD
Sunday, April 24: Orlando at Atlanta, 7 p.m.
x-Tuesday, April 26: Atlanta at Orlando, TBD
x-Thursday, April 28: Orlando at Atlanta, TBD
x-Saturday, April 30: Atlanta at Orlando, TBD

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