ATLANTA -- Manu Ginobili will return to the Spurs' lineup Wednesday night against the Hawks after missing 18 games with a stress reaction in his right ankle. Tim Duncan, forced into extended minutes Tuesday night to secure a 1-point victory over Golden State, will get the second night of a back-to-back off to rest his ailing right knee.
The Spurs were 11-7 without Ginobili, whose minutes will be watched closely Wednesday night. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said there's "no sense of relief whatsoever" that Ginobili is back because he doesn't know how the ankle will respond to increased minutes.
"We have no idea if he's well and perfect," Popovich said.
Popovich had planned to limit Duncan's minutes to the teens Tuesday night, but was forced to extend him when the Spurs struggled in another close game. After speaking with the media, Popovich went to the trainer's room to speak with Duncan and emerged to report that he'll sit against the Hawks.
Popovich has rested his star players on and off since just before the All-Star break, but Ginobili's injury has been a legitimate and growing concern. Now, the Spurs have to focus on getting Duncan as healthy as possible for a playoff push.
Duncan has only three 20-point games since the All-Star break, missed three straight games at the end of February, and is unlikely to play both ends of back-to-backs the rest of the way as Popovich stresses health over playoff seeding down the stretch. The Spurs have two more sets of back-to-backs left -- April 7-8 and 12-13 -- as they hope to hang onto no worse than the third seed in the West so they can avoid having to play the Lakers until the conference finals.