And just as he's done consistently since the All-Star break, Ginobili delivered.
|Complete Playoff Race|
After entering the final period with five points, Ginobili made four of seven shots in the fourth, including all three 3-point attempts to help the Spurs escape Sacramento with a victory and continue their late-season roll.
"I'm feeling really confident right now," said Ginobili, who has averaged more than 25 points over the past 16 games. "I couldn't make shots for three quarters, but I know the team trusts me. They ran some plays for me and I took some big shots and they went in."
Ginobili's 3-pointer with 5:15 remaining broke a 79-all tie and began a stretch of 12 unanswered points by the Spurs. Another 3 by Ginobili several minutes later put San Antonio ahead 89-79.
"It was the fourth quarter again [for us]," Kings forward Donte Greene said. "Ginobili got hot and we always need to know where he is at. We did a pretty good job on him until the fourth quarter."
The victory moved San Antonio into a sixth-place tie with Oklahoma City in the Western Conference playoff race. San Antonio has won 16 of 21 and has five games remaining, including trips to Phoenix, Denver and Dallas.
The Spurs got some typical clutch production from Ginobili and also were pleased to see the return of point guard Tony Parker, who had missed 16 games with an injured hand.
Playing sparingly in a reserve role, Parker had eight points and two assists in 16 minutes.
"Pop [coach Gregg Popovich] told me about 15 minutes and I got 16," said Parker, who didn't play in the fourth quarter. "I didn't feel tired, I was just kind of out of rhythm. I was just happy to be out there, I didn't care what I did."
Making his first NBA start, Garrett Temple had 15 points for the Spurs. Temple made five of eight shots, converted all four free throws and added three rebounds and four assists. He had been with the Kings on a 10-day contract earlier in the season when he played five games and was released.
"Garrett was fantastic tonight," Popovich said. "It's really impressive to see a young guy go out there and be that aggressive and not worry about making mistakes. I thought he was really important to our win tonight."
"We thought we had them, but they made some tough shots in the fourth quarter to ice the game," Evans said. "That is what hurt us."
The Spurs have showed they can beat the NBA's best. In a recent 10-day stretch, they defeated division leaders Cleveland, the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston and Orlando.
Parker, a crucial ingredient to the Spurs' four NBA championships, had been replaced at point guard by George Hill the past month. With Hill directing the offense, the Spurs compiled an 11-5 record and he averaged 16.1 points a game.
Parker's return nearly coincided with Hill's sprained right ankle in Sunday's win over the Lakers. Hill didn't play against the Kings and is expected to miss Wednesday's game at Phoenix, too.
Following a two-point first half, Duncan scored eight in the third to help the Spurs take a 71-67 lead into the fourth quarter.
- Kings starting center Spencer Hawes has a bruised left knee and will miss the rest of the season.
- Parker has sat out 26 games this season, while Hill missed his first game to injury during his two-year career.
- Duncan picked up a third-quarter technical foul, then shared a quick laugh with Beno Udrih, his former teammate, who made the subsequent technical and two other free throws in succession.