NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The San Antonio Spurs were without their sparkplug for 38 days.
The New Jersey Nets might wish Manu Ginobili sat out for one more night.
Ginobili scored eight points and had four assists in 17 minutes in the Spurs' 103-89 victory over the Nets, San Antonio's seventh in a row.
``I'm very happy to be back, first of all, after (almost) 40 days,' said Ginobili, who broke a bone in his left hand on Jan. 2. ``Conditioning-wise, I'm behind. Basketball-wise, I'm behind. I know the only way to get back is to play.'
Gary Neal scored 18 points, and Tim Duncan recorded his ninth double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Tony Parker added 12 points, DeJuan Blair finished with 11, while Daniel Green and Thiago Splitter each had 10 for the Spurs.
San Antonio was bolstered by the return of their sixth man, Ginobili. The Argentinean guard had not played in 22 games.
``He wasn't worried about the hand, but he doesn't have his legs,' Spurs coach Gregg Popvich said. ``You can see he got a good start. He scored a little bit. He had some assists. He got a little bit of a rhythm, but the legs for the 3s aren't going to be there right away. He drove it pretty well and passed it pretty well.'
Ginobili noted that doctors did not give him a protective brace to wear despite the six small screws in his hand.
``I was a little worried about today 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.'
Deron Williams scored 27 points to lead the Nets, who have lost six in a row. Kris Humphries added 15, while Jordan Farmar had 12 and Anthony Morrow 11 as New Jersey fell to 3-10 at home.
``A team like this, you really can't get down against them because it is an uphill battle from there,' Williams said. ``The way they play and how they space you out and they get to every spot they want to.'
The Spurs took control in the second quarter by making 14 of 19 shots to outscore the Nets 31-18 and take a 55-40 lead at halftime. San Antonio's torrid shooting was coupled by strong defense. New Jersey missed 19 of its 27 shots in the quarter, including all six 3-point attempts.
``Pretty good first quarter for us, but they turned it up on us in the second quarter and ended up building a 21-point lead,' Nets coach Avery Johnson said.
New Jersey cut into San Antonio's lead midway in the third quarter. Williams' 3-pointer cut the deficit to 62-56, but the Nets would get no closer.
San Antonio went on a 15-3 run to end the quarter that pushed the Spurs' lead to 73-59. The spurt was highlighted by Splitter's half-hook from the left, low block and a two-handed dunk on consecutive possessions.
``We showed some fight, some execution, to get the lead to six,' Humphries said. ``When we make a run, we have to maintain it. We probably get comfortable instead of pushing it to the next level.'
Notes: New Jersey and San Antonio wore their ABA jerseys as part of the Nets' Hardwood Classic Night. ... The Knicks' Jeremy Lin, the NBA's new out-of-nowhere star, was praised by both the Spurs and the Nets. ``I think it's great for the NBA,' Johnson said. Offered Popovich: ``He looks damn good, that's for sure.' ... Friday night's game marked the final time Richard Jefferson would play in New Jersey against the team for which he played the first seven years of his career. ``I have a lot of fond memories here,' Jefferson said. ``I'll try not to get too nostalgic until after the game.'
The Associated Press News Service
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