The Spurs sang "Happy Birthday" to coach Gregg Popovich in their locker room Sunday night after beating the Sacramento Kings 113-98 at the AT&T Center.
Suffice it to say that the scene in the team's inner sanctum would have been far different if the Silver and Black had dropped a second consecutive home game. Popovich, who turned 69, would have been in no mood to be serenaded.
"It was good," said Ginobili, who returned to the court after missing the team's last six games with a thigh contusion. "It wasn't that enthusiastic by the way we played. The guys did a good performance singing the old man 'Happy Birthday.' It was good to sing it with a win. Nobody would have had the courage to step in (if the Spurs had lost.)"
In a sour mood at halftime, when the Kings led 50-49, Popovich sat starters Danny Green, Kyle Anderson and Pau Gasol at the start of the third quarter and went with Bryn Forbes, Darrun Hilliard and Davis Bertans.
Forbes stepped up in a big way, scoring 23 points, 11 in the third quarter, to spark the Spurs (33-19) to a victory against a Kings team (15-34) that was missing six players out with injuries. Starting center Willie Cauley-Stein was among the Sacramento players sidelined.
The Kings also played most of the game without head coach David Joerger, who left the bench in the first quarter after experiencing a momentary episode of lightheadedness. Joerger went to the team's locker room and addressed the team the team at halftime, but did not return to the bench.
"He's OK. He's all right," said Kings assistant coach Elston Turner, who coached the team after Joerger made his exit. "Sometimes when you stand up real fast from a sitting position, you get a little bit light-headed, and that's what happened."
A second-year pro, Forbes hit 9 of 15 shots for the game, including 5 of 8 from the three-point line. Forbes, who had seven points in the first half, was 4 of 6 from the field, including 3 for 3 from the three-point line, to jump-start San Antonio's sputtering offense in the third period.
"I was just trying to make the right plays," Forbes said. "If I'm open, I'm going to shoot. But I'm just trying to make the right play and get other guys open, too."
The Spurs played without All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard and veteran reserve forward Rudy Gay, both out with injuries.
Popovich praised Forbes and point guard Dejounte Murray, who had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in his fifth start. He made all six of his field-goal attempts and dished out six assists. More importantly, he didn't have a turnover in 26 minutes.
"In the second half, I thought that Bryn and Dejounte were great at both ends of the court," Popovich said. "That's the effort and execution that you need. They were great and other people followed. Their intensity and execution was very good.
"After the game, I said 'Dejounte and Bryn, you guys were great tonight' because they were good on the offensive end and on the defensive end. They guarded really well. Bryn was chasing guys around all night, guys that are bigger than he is. He was really something else. I'm really proud of him."
Murray, only 21, and Forbes, 24, are only going to get better with time. They have the skills. All they need is the experience that comes with playing at the NBA level and facing different situations on the court.
The Spurs outscored the Kings 64-48 in the second half, shooting 59.5 percent overall (25/42) and 50 percent (7/14) from the three-point line.
"Coach got us on us really tough" at halftime, Murray said, adding that Popovich chewed on them for so long that they didn't have enough time to warm up for the second half. "It's mainly a mental thing. The great thing about it is there's two halves in basketball. We had a bad first half. We got to make up for it in the second half.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Ginobili scored 15 points apiece for San Antonio and Gasol had a double-double, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Mills was the only other Spur in double figures, scoring 11 points. He was 3 of 5 from beyond the arc.
Ginobili's mere presence on the court gave the Spurs a lift that was palpable.
"There's no doubt that their confidence level goes up and they feel a little bit more organized with guys like Manu in the lineup," Popovich said. "It's kind of like they go into battle with guys like that. It makes you feel better, so it was wonderful to have him back."
The Silver and Black wound up shooting 50 percent overall (45/90) and 44 percent (11/25) from the three-point line. They had 33 assists on their 45 made field goals and finished with only seven turnovers.
The Spurs were coming off a 97-78 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. The Silver and Black continue their five-game homestand Tuesday night against the Denver Nuggets.
De'Aaron Fox led Sacramento with a game-high 26 points and Vince Carter, who turned 41 on Friday, scored 21. Former Spur George Hill finished with 19 points and Justin Jackson had 14.
Sacramento shot 42.7 percent (35/82) and was a sizzling 52.9 percent (18/34) from long distance. Fox buried 6 of 6 three-pointers and Carter hit 5 of 7. Hill also had a good night from the three-point line, making 3 of 6 attempts.
The Kings gave the Spurs all they could handle until fading late in the third quarter. The score was tied at 69 before Anderson nailed a 20-foot jumper to put the Spurs ahead to stay with 3:19 left in the third. San Antonio was up 79-69 going into the final period.
The game featured the two oldest active players in the NBA, Carter and Ginobili, who celebrates his 41st birthday on July 28.
Popovich marveled at how Ginobili and Carter have continued to play at such a high level at their age.
"They're such high-class acts and it's good to see Vince play," Popovich said. "He plays hard and he does it with class. He's been doing this for so long, just like Manu. They're the kind of guys you hope never retire."
Led by Carter, the Kings took a 50-49 lead at halftime. Carter led scorers with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 3 of 5 from the three-point line. Jackson scored 12 points for Sacramento, hitting 5 of 8 shots. He hit 2 of 3 three-pointers.
The Spurs had only four turnovers in the first half, but their offensive execution still sputtered at key points. They shot 41.7 percent overall (20/48) overall and 36.4 percent (4/11) from the three-point line.
Ginobili led San Antonio's first-half scoring with nine points, followed by Aldridge (8) and Gasol (8). San Antonio led 29-22 after one quarter before Sacramento went up by one at the half. The Spurs outscored the Kings 30-19 in the third period to take a 79-69 lead into the final quarter.