SAN ANTONIO — You bet he was concerned.
San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili converted just two of 23 shots in preseason games, which makes even a successful player question his acumen.
“I wasn’t confident,” Ginobili said. “It worried me. At same time, I knew the beginning was (Tuesday).”
Sure was. Ginobili scored 20 points, including 14 in the second half, as the Spurs began defense of their NBA championship with a 101-100 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.
Guard Tony Parker led San Antonio with 23 points. Parker hit a 3-point shot — his fourth of the game — to give the Spurs their margin of victory with 1:07 remaining.
Forward Tim Duncan produced 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Parker’s basket came after Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki gave his team the lead with a 16-foot jump shot at the 1:28 mark. The Mavericks trailed by 10 with less than seven minutes remaining.
Dallas had a chance to win the game after Parker’s shot, but forward Chandler Parsons missed a long 3-pointer with one second left.
Ginobili helped the Spurs secure their fifth NBA championship in June despite playing with a stress fracture in his right leg during the Finals. He rested during the summer, prohibited by the Spurs from competing with the Argentine national team. Ginobili returned to basketball covered in rust; witness the poor shooting in preseason games.
The veteran made six of 13 shots against Dallas.
“He was like zero for 50 in preseason and had like 19 turnovers per game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “But tonight he was Manu Ginobili. He was unbelievable.”
Guard Monta Ellis led Dallas with 26 points. Nowitzki scored 18, one more than guard Devin Harris.
San Antonio unveiled its 2014 championship banner in a pregame ceremony that started with a film clip narrated by ubiquitous actor Samuel L. Jackson. All 14 men from the Spurs’ playoff roster returned this season, each receiving a championship ring from the team’s owner, Peter Holt.
Ginobili was moved by the occasion.
“It’s hard to contain tears when you see the banner unveiling, when you see us hugging and the fans going crazy,” Ginobili said. “It’s a special moment.”
Three of the 14 returning Spurs did not play due to injury or illness — center Tiago Splitter, forward Kawhi Leonard and guard Patty Mills. Marco Belinelli, starting in place of Leonard, scored 15 points.
Even so, the absent Spurs were missed during much of the game. San Antonio trailed by 10 in the third quarter but forged past Dallas with 15-2 push. Parker scored 10 points in the quarter, and Ginobili scored nine.
“They are a great team,” Parsons said. “They are champions for a reason.”
Dallas has eight new players this season, including three starters: Parsons, center Tyson Chandler and guard Jameer Nelson. Chandler, the center when Dallas won the 2011 NBA title before spending three seasons with the New York Knicks, is expected to anchor the Mavericks’ defense. He sat down with four fouls with 8:30 left in the third quarter. Dallas led by two points at the time.
“It definitely changed momentum,” Chandler said. “They started going inside. There was definitely a shift in the game after that.”
NOTES: NBA commissioner Adam Silver presided over the Spurs’ ring ceremony. … The only newcomer on the Spurs’ roster is F Kyle Anderson, a rookie first-round draft pick. … The Spurs were missing F Kawhi Leonard (eye infection), C Tiago Splitter (calf and back) and G Patty Mills (shoulder surgery). Mills is not expected back until at least mid-January. … The Spurs have until Friday to sign Leonard, the 2014 Finals MVP, to a contract extension or he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. … First-year Dallas G Raymond Felton will serve a four-game suspension after pleading guilty to a gun charge in New York. However, the suspension can’t start until he recovers from a sprained ankle.
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