CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Manu Ginobili said he needed a game like this.
Maybe it’s the game the San Antonio Spurs needed to get things turned around, too.
Ginobili was the focal point of the Spurs’ offense Wednesday night, scoring 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting in San Antonio’s 98-93 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
When the Spurs needed a big play, they didn’t hesitate to turn to the 13-year NBA veteran.
“In the past few games I’ve had the opportunity to have the ball in my hands a lot of times,” Ginobili said. “Sometimes it is not that easy against very athletic teams. Today I made a couple of shots and made better decisions, so I am happy about it.”
The Spurs, seventh in the Western Conference standings, played for the second straight night on the road. The defending NBA champions will look to make a push when the play eight of their next 10 games at home.
“We had an opportunity to win some other games and we’ve blown them,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Tonight we came through so it feels pretty good.”
Danny Green scored 18 points and Tim Duncan added 14 points and 10 rebounds to help the Spurs snap the Hornets’ five-game win streak. The Spurs have won eight straight against the Hornets.
“Nothing seems to be easy for us this year,” Ginobili said. “We are playing a lot of close games. But we are learning from it.”
Ginobili was the key to this win.
After the Hornets drew to 86-85 with 4 minutes, the left-hander drove the right side of the lane and made a high-banking shot off the glass over two leaping Hornets. Then he hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key on the next possession to make it a six-point game. He followed that with a feed to a cutting Tiago Splitter for a layup to push the lead to 93-85.
Kemba Walker had 28 points on 9-of-24 shooting after averaging 30.2 points during the Hornets’ winning streak.
Lance Stephenson returned from a 14-game absence due to a pelvic sprain and had eight points in 19 minutes. Stephenson said he didn’t feel winded, and said the time off helped give him a new perspective.
“When I was out, I watched people share the ball and play without negative energy,” Stephenson said. “So I don’t want to play with any negative energy and bring everybody down.”
The Spurs appeared on the verge of running away from the Hornets late in the first half when Green hit back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead to 16.
But the Hornets climbed within 10 after getting some production from an unlikely source — center Bismack Biyombo. In a span of 10 seconds, Biyombo slid underneath Matt Bonner and tipped in a missed free throw, blocked a shot on defense and then grabbed an offensive rebound and scored while drawing a foul for a 3-point play.
But Ginobili halted any momentum the Hornets had by draining a 26-footer from the top of the key at the buzzer to give the Spurs a 57-45 lead at the break.
The Hornets has several defensive lapses in the second quarter and were outscored 35-27, which Charlotte coach Steve Clifford called the key to the game.
“Every team has a different level of room for error,” Clifford said. “We don’t have room for error. We can’t have that.”
Spurs: Boris Diaw, who previously played in Charlotte, was booed almost every time he touched the ball.
Hornets: The Hornets were 23 of 35 from the free throw line. … Gerald Henderson had a technical foul for arguing calls.
BIZ MODE: Biyombo continues to improve, finishing with 12 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks while filling in for Al Jefferson. He played with a ton of energy, though he was a little embarrassed when he air-balled a free throw.
LEONARD NEEDED: Popovich said after the game the Spurs “stink on defense” without Kawhi Leonard. “That’s the bottom line,” Popovich said. “He does all kinds of stuff for us. He guards the best player. He guards a couple of different guys. He rebounds the position. He makes steals. He covers for his teammates. He is huge on D.”
SMOOCHING RIVERA: Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera, sitting courtside, was shown on the “Kiss Cam” and he drew a big roar from the crowd when he leaned over and gave wife Stephanie a smooch. The Panthers lost Saturday night to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional playoffs.
Spurs: Host Portland on Friday night.
Hornets: Host Indiana on Saturday night.
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