SAN ANTONIO — One of the recurring NBA questions as the playoffs approached the last few seasons is the status of San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili’s health.
The postseason does not arrive for a month. But for now, Ginobili says he feels good after missing eight games earlier in the season with a hamstring injury.
He looked terrific Sunday night. Ginobili scored 21 points and the Spurs won their 10th straight game, beating the Utah Jazz 122-104.
Ginobili, twisting and turning like a basketball contortionist, made an array of driving shots as well as two 3-point baskets. He converted 8 of 11 shots from the field.
“I’m trying to get to the rim more; I’m feeling healthy,” Ginobili said. “I’m feeling stronger.”
San Antonio leads the NBA in 3-point shooting accuracy. That helps create driving lanes to the basket for Ginobili, guard Tony Parker and others.
“Most of the teams now are closing out on shooters, so I’m trying to use that to my advantage and attack,” Ginobili said.
Ginobili is one of those shooters that must be respected on the perimeter.
“People get out on him at the 3-point line,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “That gives him an opportunity to drive those close-outs. He’s looking pretty spry. If he gets locked up, he gets the ball to other people.”
San Antonio shot a season-best 62.8 percent from the field and improved to 50-16, the best record in the NBA.
Parker scored 18 points, hitting 7 of 11 shots from the field. Forward Tim Duncan scored 16 points, missing on just three of his 10 shots from the floor. Center Tiago Splitter contributed 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the field and 10 rebounds.
Popovich seemed most impressed with Splitter.
“I thought Tiago was great,” Popovich said. “Tiago was really tough, defensively and boardwise. He really brought it.”
Utah, which has the worst record in the NBA Western Conference at 22-45, did not go down without trying. The Jazz summoned the effort to grab 13 offensive rebounds and turn them into 23 second-chance points. Center Enes Kanter snagged six of the offensive rebounds.
Jazz forward Derrick Favors had a career-best 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He hit 12 of 19 shots from the field. Swingman Gordon Hayward added 17 points.
The Jazz trailed by five points with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter. But during the final two minutes of the quarter, Ginobili made a driving layup, guard Patty Mills knocked down a 3-point shot and forward Boris Diaw added a mid-range jump shot. The baskets by Mills and Diaw came during the final eight seconds, giving the Spurs a 91-76 lead.
“They all pass the basketball,” Hayward said. “The ball never stops. They hit the open man and defensively they’re all where they are supposed to be at.”
The Spurs led 61-53 at halftime, thanks to a 3-pointer by Ginobili with 2.8 seconds remaining.
San Antonio shot 60.5 percent from the field in the first half — Ginobili and Duncan combined to hit 9 of 11 — but the Spurs failed to open a bigger lead because they struggled to stop Favors and Hayward.
Favors, a 6-foot-10 forward, torched the Spurs for 17 points in the opening half. He converted 7 of 10 shots from the field. Hayward scored 12 points in the first 24 minutes.
Utah would hung around for a while in the second half, but not long enough.
“We thought we had them there for a minute,” Favors said. “But they just came down and made big plays.”
NOTES: The Spurs’ eight-point halftime lead marked the first time in four games they did not hold a huge edge at the break. In the previous three games, they led Chicago by 28, Portland by 16 and the Los Angeles Lakers by 27. … Utah arrived with a 1-7 record in March. The Jazz had a chance for a victory at home on Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers, leading by 10 points with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. But Utah committed five turnovers in the final 2:38 of the quarter and the Clippers took advantage to win their 10th consecutive game, 96-87. … The Spurs’ 34-point win over the Lakers on Friday broke a team record for victory margin against the Lakers that stood since 1977. The previous mark was 32 points. … Jazz F Marvin Williams returned after missing the game against the Clippers with a lower back strain. But he did not resume his usual role as a starter.
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