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8-22

Spurs-Pistons Preview

AP - Sports

San Antonio's Manu Ginobili got a chance to re-acclimate himself after almost six weeks off with a game against an inferior opponent.

It appears Ginobili will get another opportunity to ease back into form Tuesday night when the surging Spurs visit the Detroit Pistons, another seemingly overmatched team.

After sitting out 22 games because of a broken bone in his left hand, Ginobili returned Saturday against New Jersey. He came off the bench and finished with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting and four assists in 17 minutes of a 103-89 win, the seventh straight for San Antonio.

"I'm very happy to be back,'' said Ginobili, who averaged 19.8 points and 60.5 percent shooting in the four games before his injury. "Conditioning-wise, I'm behind. Basketball-wise, I'm behind. I know the only way to get back is to play.''

Ginobili, who did not wear a protective brace, said he wasn't hesitant about playing with an injury, but was concerned about disrupting the chemistry the team developed in his absence. The Spurs went 15-7 without Ginobili and haven't lost since an overtime defeat to Dallas on Jan. 29.

"I was a little worried because the situation was kind of awkward (because of the) six-game winning streak, playing a team that's not doing well, me coming back,'' he said. "So I was a little worried. Once I saw the game, that we were going to get a win, I loosened up a little bit and I could enjoy (it) a little bit more.''

Ginobili may have a similar mindset against the Pistons (8-21), whom the Spurs swept last season.

Detroit, last in the Central Division, is coming off a 98-77 loss to lowly Washington that snapped a four-game winning streak. Those victories didn't come against the stiffest competition, as the Pistons beat Milwaukee, New Orleans and New Jersey twice.

Greg Monroe had a game-high 27 points against the Wizards, but the rest of the starters combined to score 29. The Pistons shot 32.6 percent, their lowest mark since Dec. 23, 2009, when they shot 27.9 percent against Toronto.

"We just didn't have any energy," said guard Ben Gordon, who finished with seven points and shot 2 of 9. "We had that during the last four games, but it was gone.''

It could be tough for Detroit, one of the league's worst offensive teams at 87.2 points per game, to bounce back against the Spurs. San Antonio has allowed an average of 86.3 points during their winning streak.

The Spurs have also stepped up offensively during their run.

They've reached triple digits in three of four games and shot 52.5 percent against the Nets, their highest mark in 10 games. Coach Gregg Popovich got an opportunity to limit the minutes for some of his starters and the bench responded with 50 points.

Reserve guard Gary Neal led six players in double figures with 18 points.

"The bench has sustained us all year," Popovich said. "It's why we've kept our head above water. Our entire bench has been fantastic. Tim Duncan has played fewer minutes this season than he ever has. He understands what we're doing."

Tony Parker played 25 minutes Saturday, his fewest since Jan. 17, and finished with 12 points after averaging 28.4 in 37.0 minutes in his previous five. He totaled 42 points and went 18 of 23 from the field in the two games against the Pistons last season.

Monroe has been one of the few bright spots for Detroit offensively. The second-year center is averaging 21.3 points and 60.5 percent shooting in six games this month after averaging 13.6 points and 43.0 percent in his previous 10 contests.

Ben Wallace, seeing limited minutes off Detroit's bench, will break the NBA record for games played by an undrafted player since the 1976-77 NBA-ABA merger if he takes the court Tuesday. Wallace, who says this is his final season, is tied for the record with Avery Johnson at 1,054 games.

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