Ginobili and the Spurs (36-17) look to win their fifth straight Saturday when they host the conference-leading New Orleans Hornets.
Tony Parker is expected to come off the bench again Saturday while he works his way back into the Spurs’ lineup following an extended absence. The point guard, who is averaging 18.9 points and 6.0 assists, missed nine straight games from Jan. 29-Feb. 19 because of an inflamed left ankle. He returned for Thursday’s 100-99 win over Minnesota and played 19 minutes off the bench, finishing with eight points on 3-of-7 shooting.
“I felt pretty good for a first game,” Parker said. “I just tried to get back in rhythm and get some wind and I’m OK, feel good.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Parker will continue coming off the bench while he returns to health, and it’s expected Ginobili will continue starting in his place.
Ginobili scored 44 points in Thursday’s win, sinking the game-winning jumper with 6.2 seconds remaining. It was the second time in three games he scored more than 40 points. Ginobili scored a season-high 46 in a win over Cleveland on Feb. 13.
“Manu is a top caliber player, he’s an All-Star caliber player,” Popovich said. “He’s been on fire for a while now.”
Ginobili, who spent much of last season and the first half of this season coming off the bench, is leading the Spurs with 20.5 points per game. He has made 10 straight starts in Parker’s place, averaging 25.5 points during that stretch.
The Spurs, winners of eight of nine, are looking to match a season-high five-game win streak accomplished twice already this season. They play five of their next seven at home, where they are 21-5.
San Antonio and New Orleans (37-16) have split their first two meetings this season, with the visitor winning each time. The Hornets’ 102-78 win in San Antonio on Jan. 26 snapped a six-game road losing streak against the Spurs, and an eight-game overall skid against them.
New Orleans hopes to bounce back after its five-game win streak was snapped with a 100-80 loss to surging Houston on Friday.
David West scored 20 points and fellow All-Star Chris Paul added 14 points and 11 assists, but the Hornets shot 40 percent from the field and failed to reach 100 points for just the fifth time in 21 contests.
“They punched us first; that was the game,” coach Byron Scott said. “They just were a much more aggressive, physical basketball team. We never reacted the way we were supposed to. … We took two steps back and allowed them to do whatever they wanted.”
New Orleans, which shot 16 percent (3-of-18) in the second quarter and 33 percent for the half, is averaging 100.1 points this season. It entered Friday averaging 111.8 points in its previous five contests.
The Hornets did not have newly acquired Bonzi Wells and Mike James available Friday after both were acquired from Houston a day earlier. Bobby Jackson, sent to the Rockets as part of the deal, is still in Houston for a physical and the trade won’t be official until that is complete.