SAN ANTONIO – The Spurs listed 40-year-old guard Manu Ginobili as questionable for Friday night’s home game against the Charlotte Hornets when they released their injury report earlier in the day.
With the game coming on the second night of a back-to-back, coach Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was expected to rest the second-oldest active player in the NBA.
When Popovich met with reporters at 5:45 p.m., he said Ginobili would not play against the Hornets. But less than a half-hour later, team spokesman Tom James said Ginobili would play after all.
Ginobili not only played in a 108-101 victory that broke the Spurs’ four-game skid, he dazzled the sellout crowd of 18,418 with some vintage plays that rekindled memories of his prime.
Popovich was succinct when asked what he thought about Ginobili playing in his 1,000th game.
“He’s remarkable,” he said.
While Ginobili added to his long list of career highlights, Bryn Forbes, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills breathed life into San Antonio’s offense with their shooting.
Forbes, a second-year pro who plays guard, and Gay came off the bench to lead the Spurs with 22 and 20 points, respectively. Mills, who started at point guard, finished with 17 points and scored 12 consecutive points for the Silver and Black on four three-pointers in the fourth quarter. Mills (4/7) and Forbes (3/5) finished the game a combined 7 of 12 from the 3-point line.
"It felt good to play some more minutes and make some shots," said Forbes, who played 22 minutes and hit 8 of 11 shots, including 3 of 5 three-pointers. "I just try and contribute the way that I can contribute, do what they tell me to do and try and affect the game in some way. That's all I was really thinking coming into the game, and just try to keep my confidence high."
Asked what he's doing to create shots for himself, Forbes said: "I'm just trying to be aggressive. If I'm open, shoot the ball. If I can drive, drive. If not, pass the ball. I try to keep it really simple, and it makes the game a lot easier when I do that."
Mills had made only 1 of 5 shots and scored five points in the first three quarters before he went off in the final period, when he hit 4 of 7 field-goal attempts, including 4 of 5 three-pointers in a span of 4 minutes, 11 seconds. His first three put the Silver and Black up 97-89 with 4:45 left, and his last one made it 106-98 with 34 seconds remaining.
Mills had struggled with his three-point shot in the Spurs' first eight games, making only 8 of 30 attempts (26.6 percent).
"Nothing, nothing more than the other ones," Mills said, when asked what came over him in the fourth quarter. "They (shots) just went in. I think, although they haven't been going in previous to this game, I feel like I bring a positive energy energy to the group defensively and all-around as a leader.
"I think the biggest thing is that I was still shooting them, though. When I don't shoot, I think that's when something is wrong. As a shooter, you have to keep shooting. They were lucky to fall in tonight, but we'll see what happens next game, too."
Ginobili and Dejounte Murray scored 10 points to help the Spurs’ bench outscore the Hornets’ bench by a whopping 64-16 margin. LaMarcus Aldridge (14) was the only other Spur besides Mills who scored in double figures.
Now in his 16th season with the Spurs, Ginobili played in his 1,000th regular-season game. He also has played in 213 playoff games, all with San Antonio.
“It depends on how you see it,” Ginobili said, when asked about reaching another milestone in his career.
He smiled sheepishly before adding: “I do think that playoff games count. I’m not going to complain. Still, 1,000 regular-season games is a lot of games, a lot of years. I’m proud to have made it so far.”
Ginobili said he “felt good” before the game and told Popovich that he wanted to play.
“I never expected (to play) 26 minutes on a back-to-back, but I did feel good,” he said. “Now, of course, I’m very tired. But we have 48 hours to recover. Usually on back-to-backs, I don’t play (both games), or play very few of them.
“But today, I really felt like I had to play. I needed to play, not I had to play, because I was disappointed in the way I played the day before and I needed that feeling to redeem myself or feel better about myself. So, I wanted to be out there with the guys. We needed a win. The truth is that after four losses, we needed to feel better about ourselves and get a W.”
Besides scoring 10 points, Ginobili drew a thunderous ovation when he scored on a driving dunk that put the Silver and Black up 88-84 with 6:19 left. His basket stopped an 11-0 Charlotte run that began when Forbes hit a 14-foot jumper to give the Spurs an 86-73 run with 10:13 remaining.
Ginobili also had a sweet pass on an alley-oop to Gay, who threw down a monster dunk late in the third period.
The Spurs had lost four in a row after starting the season 4-0. They started a six-homestand Thursday night with a 112-92 loss to defending league champion Golden State.
The Silver and Black play the Phoenix Suns at 6 p.m. Sunday.
(This story was published before Friday night's game.)
Coach Pop on the slumping Spurs: 'We're a mediocre team'
SAN ANTONIO – Whether it's talking about his team, Donald Trump, the NBA, or whatever, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich never has been one to mince words.
That's why no one should be surprised by what he told reporters before Friday night's game against the Charlotte Hornets at the AT&T Center.
"We're a mediocre team," Popovich said. "We're an average team. That means that everything we do is a little good, a little bad."
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili will play against Charlotte (5-3). The team had listed him as questionable (rest) earlier in the day, and Popovich told reporters he wouldn't play, but team spokesman Tom James later announced Ginobili would play.
The Silver and Black lost their fourth consecutive game Thursday, falling to the defending champion Golden State Warriors 112-92 at home. The loss marked the first time San Antonio has lost four in a row since February 25, 2015.
The Spurs haven't lost five consecutive games since the 2010-11 team dropped six in a row from March 23 through April 1, 2011. They haven't started a season 4-5 since the 2009-10 campaign.
With All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard and veteran point guard Tony Parker still out as they rehab quad injuries, the Silver and Black have faced the challenge of adapting to a lineup and developing younger players quicker to bolster their depth.
"That's part of it," Popovich said. "Having some good players gone always hurts. Young players who have to learn take time, so it's been a different combination. Lots of things to learn. We've started out poorly before."
The 2010-11 Spurs went on to finish 61-21 and headed into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the West, only to lose No. 8 seed Memphis in the first round. The 2009-10 team that started 4-5 finished 50-32 and was swept by Phoenix in the second round of the postseason.
Thursday night's clash against Golden State was the start of a six-game homestand for the Spurs. They play Phoenix on Sunday and face the Clippers on Tuesday, before going against Milwaukee and Chicago in another back-to-back next Friday and Saturday.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili will play against Charlotte (5-3) on Friday night The team had listed him as questionable (rest) earlier in the day, and Popovich told reporters he wouldn't play. Team spokesman Tom James later announced Ginobili would play.