First thing's first: Neither Manu Ginobili nor Tyreke Evans got hurt on this face-first collision during the fourth quarter of the San Antonio Spurs' 127-102 win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. Evans played on, missing just 2:30 of the final frame. Ginobili didn't return after suffering "a laceration inside his right ear" on the play, but it was judged by the Spurs trainers not to be too serious, needing only a bandage rather than stitches, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. About that, we should all be thankful, because yikes.
With all due respect to Kings fans, who are great and passionate and don't deserve the treatment they are getting, that is a way bigger relief for supporters of the Spurs, who swept their second back-to-back-to-back set of the season with the win. San Antonio now stands at a Western Conference-leading 45-16; with five games left in their regular season, the Spurs' focus is now tuning up for what they hope is a longer postseason run than last year's first-round exit at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. For that, they'll need Ginobili, who's missed nearly half this lockout-shortened season with myriad injuries, on the floor.
More from McDonald at the Express-News:
"I'm trying to mix it up," Ginobili said before reeling off the laundry list of injuries that have contributed to him missing 30 games this season. "Hand, ab, ear. Keep it entertaining."
To those who recall what happened to Ginobili last season, when a fractured elbow on the last day of the season in Phoenix ruined a 61-win season, there was nothing funny about seeing the Argentine guard briefly prostrate, clutching the side of his head. [...]
Ginobili hasn't been healthy for a full playoff run since 2007, not coincidentally the last time the Spurs won a championship.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has to walk a fine line over the Spurs' final five games. He's got to get Ginobili back in the rhythm and flow of the game after just 57 total minutes of floor time in the back-to-back-to-back, priming the pump so that his integral sixth man is ready to take on whichever bottom-of-the-bracket squad — the seventh-seeded Denver Nuggets, the eighth-seeded Utah Jazz, the half-game-out Phoenix Suns or Houston Rockets — they wind up facing in the first round.
But he's also got to be careful not to expose a not-quite-game-fit and somewhat injury-prone Ginobili to injury; as Pop told McDonald, when Ginobili was injured against the Suns last season, "Everybody knew it was over." It'd be a shame to see the Spurs enter the playoffs short-handed two straight years, with their stars' years numbered, if it could have been prevented.
(Also, yes: Two dudes running into one another is pretty much always funny. I am sorry for being dire so early in the morning.)
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