SAN ANTONIO (AP)—Sometimes Manu Ginobili enjoys the thought of coming off the bench. It looks as if Wednesday was one of those nights.
Ginobili scored 27 points in a return to his sixth-man role to help the San Antonio Spurs beat Atlanta 95-89 for their fourth straight victory.
Ginobili, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year last season, scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. He started for the Spurs (13-8) in the previous four games, including a demanding double-overtime victory Tuesday night in Dallas that was followed by the de-icing of the team’s plane and a return home past 2 a.m.
“It was a tough back-to-back,” Ginobili said. “He (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) was thinking about it. So I said, ‘Go ahead.’ As I told you, sometimes I prefer coming from the bench, so no big deal.”
Ginobili was 8-of-12, including 5-of-7 from the 3-point line, and made six free throws without a miss.
Ginobili hit two free throws with 3:27 remaining after Mike Bibby and Al Horford were called for technical fouls for arguing Horford’s foul call when the Hawks had cut the Spurs’ lead to three points.
Referee Pat Fraher whistled the techs, and once Ginobili made the foul shots and the Spurs kept possession, Duncan made a short bank shot to expand that three-point lead before the techs to 83-76 after them with 3:13 left in the game.
“I didn’t really say anything,” Bibby said. “If saying ‘Come on, man,’ deserves a tech, then I deserved the tech. I’ve heard a lot worse get told to people and (they’ve) not got a tech.”
Once Bibby got the technical, Horford got whistled scant seconds later.
“I said ‘What happened?’ to Mike because I didn’t know what was going on,” Horford said. “You’ve got a tight game going on—a great game—and you’re going to blow it up doing that?”
Ginobili hit a 3-pointer with 1:53 to go. Then, after the Hawks cut it to two on Johnson’s short jumper with 54 seconds left, Ginobili cut through the lane for a wide-open layup that gave the Spurs an 89-85 with 32 seconds remaining.
“Ginobili made a great play,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “Overall, they made the plays when they had to.”
Ginobili made four free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal the win.
“Manu carried it for us,” Duncan said. “He hit some big shots—obviously free throws down the stretch. He loves games like that. He loves situations like that.”
The Spurs led by as much as 15 points with 3:05 left in the third quarter. San Antonio was up by 11 with 9:53 left in the game before Atlanta outscored the Spurs 27-18 to cut it to two points with less than a minute to play.
Matt Bonner had 13 rebounds and the Spurs outrebounded Atlanta 52-27.
“Bonner came out and established himself off the bat, and then it was a long night for in terms of rebounding,” Woodson said.
San Antonio has won seven of the last nine at home.
The Hawks stumbled through their trip in Texas 0-3. Atlanta has lost eight of the last nine on the road.
The Spurs didn’t look like the tired team to start the game.
But the Spurs jumped out to a 20-8 lead over an Atlanta team that lost in regulation on Tuesday night in Houston. San Antonio had the 12-point advantage on Ginobili’s 3-pointer 8:17 into the game, and the Spurs went up by 14 points with 1:12 left in the quarter.
San Antonio had a 20-8 rebounding advantage in the first quarter. Bonner, starting his fifth straight game, had four offensive rebounds and led the Spurs to a 9-2 start in second-chance points.
Bonner had seven rebounds in the first quarter, and Duncan was 4-of-5 for eight points in as many minutes.
The Spurs still led by 14 with 7 minutes left in the first half on another Ginobili 3-point shot.
Ginobili scored 11 points in 11 first-half minutes and was 3-of-5 from the 3-point line. But the Hawks scored the next seven to cut the lead in half and got as close as five after Johnson’s bank shot made it 38-33 with 1:32 before halftime.
Roger Mason got his first start since Nov. 29. … After starting the season 4-0 on the road, the Hawks are 5-8 away from home. … The Spurs have won 11 straight home games against the Hawks, not losing since a February 1997 game at the Alamodome.