Houston (37-36) at San Antonio (44-29)

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Temp: 64° F
  • Game info: 8:30 pm EDT Wed Mar 31, 2010
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A sudden injury to Manu Ginobili(notes) and a poor shooting display turned San Antonio’s matchup against the NBA’s worst team into a stunning defeat. Having Ginobili back for a meeting with another struggling opponent could produce a different outcome.

The guard will try to help the Spurs to an eighth win in nine home games Wednesday night when they face the Houston Rockets.

Ginobili is the reigning Western Conference player of the week after averaging 25.8 points and 5.0 assists to help San Antonio (44-29) to three wins in four games, including victories over NBA-best Cleveland and Atlantic Division-leading Boston.

Ginobili’s production was especially timely with Tony Parker(notes) nursing a broken right ring finger that has sidelined him for 13 games.

After his 28 points and seven assists helped the Spurs win 94-73 at the Celtics on Sunday, lower back spasms forced Ginobili to miss Monday’s visit to league-worst New Jersey. San Antonio shot 41.5 percent from the field en route to a 90-84 defeat.

“He couldn’t put his pants on,” coach Gregg Popovich said of Ginobili, who is expected back on the court Wednesday.

Ginobili, averaging 16.0 points and 4.8 assists on the season, will now try to help the Spurs improve their playoff position. They’re eighth in the Western Conference, one-half game behind seventh-place Portland and one back of Oklahoma City for sixth.

San Antonio appears nearly certain to extend its franchise-record playoff streak to 13 consecutive seasons. The Spurs are six games ahead of ninth-place Memphis with nine contests left in the regular season.

Star big man Tim Duncan(notes) leads San Antonio with averages of 18.0 points and 10.2 rebounds, but has averaged 10.8 points and 9.3 boards over his last four games. He missed eight of his first 12 shots against the Nets, but finished with 13 points while adding 12 rebounds.

Duncan is averaging 23.2 points and 9.8 rebounds in the last 11 home meetings with the Rockets (37-36), including 25 points and 14 boards in the most recent matchup, a 116-109 loss Jan. 22. The Spurs have dropped two of three against Houston this season, as well as their last two home games in this series.

The Rockets ended a season-high four-game slide Tuesday, beating Washington 98-94 at home. Houston’s status as a playoff contender is essentially only mathematical at this point, trailing San Antonio by seven games with nine games to play.

Chase Budinger(notes) is giving Houston hope for the future. The rookie swingman scored a season-high 24 points while adding six rebounds against the Wizards, hitting the go-ahead jumper with 28 seconds to play.

“He bailed us out (Tuesday),” coach Rick Adelman said.

Budinger has seen his role increase with Kevin Martin(notes) (left shoulder), Shane Battier(notes) (left knee) and David Andersen(notes) (lower back) sidelined with injuries.

Martin had 33 points in a 109-104 home win over San Antonio on Feb. 26. Budinger was a non-factor, with two points in more than 28 minutes off the bench.

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Wednesday, Mar 31