Thanks in large part to George Hill(notes), the San Antonio Spurs have been able to withstand the absence of Tony Parker(notes). With Hill now sidelined with an ankle injury, Parker is ready to reclaim the reigns.
After missing a month with a broken finger, Parker will make his surprise return Tuesday night when the Spurs visit the Sacramento Kings.
A 100-81 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday was bittersweet for San Antonio (47-29), which outplayed the Western Conference’s top team to secure a playoff spot but lost Hill to a sprained ankle in the second quarter.
Hill, expected to miss at least two games, has averaged 15.8 points in 41 games as a starter this season. He moved to point guard when Parker broke his right ring finger in early March and helped the Spurs to an 11-5 record without the three-time All-Star.
Parker was expected to miss about another week, but he was cleared to play Tuesday.
San Antonio has six games remaining, four this week, as it continues its battle for playoff position in the tightly packed West. The Spurs are in seventh place, a half-game behind Oklahoma City and a half-game ahead of Portland.
Even with having to integrate Parker back into the mix, San Antonio may have momentum on its side. It has won 15 of 20 after losing 11 of the previous 19.
“We struggled for half of the season or a little more, but now we are playing better,” shooting guard Manu Ginobili(notes) said. “Even though we’re in the seventh spot and it’s not going to be easy, we know now that nobody’s that much better than us. So that’s a big thing in your head.”
Ginobili had 32 points versus the Lakers after posting a season-high 43 in a 112-100 win over Orlando on Friday night. He has averaged 25.5 points over his last 15 games.
Ginobili was one of four Spurs to score at least 20 points in a 115-113 win over Sacramento on Feb. 3, the teams’ last meeting. San Antonio has won eight straight in the series, shooting 46.0 percent from 3-point range.
Sacramento (24-53) enters this matchup on a seven-game losing streak, averaging 88.7 points and shooting 42.4 percent in that span. The Kings lost 98-87 to Portland on Saturday night in their return from a five-game trip.
“We have to learn how to get the shots that we want in the fourth quarter, make sure we get the calls in the fourth quarter and get stops in the fourth quarter,” coach Paul Westphal said. “Those are all things that we are working on and need to improve and will continue to do so for the rest of the season and for as long as I am here.”
Kings Rookie of the Year candidate Tyreke Evans(notes) is coming off one of his worst performances, shooting 2 for 12 and finishing with six points. The 6-foot-6 guard played despite some swelling in his right knee.
Evans had 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in the last meeting with San Antonio.