Posted November 03, 2012 on AP on Fox
The San Antonio Spurs are looking for their best start to a season in five years, and now they may have Manu Ginobili back. A matchup with the Utah Jazz could help them remain unbeaten. With Ginobili possibly available, the Spurs attempt to continue their dominance of the Jazz on Saturday night after sweeping them out of the playoffs last season. San Antonio (2-0) hasn't opened a season with three straight victories since 2007-08. The team got closer to matching that start Thursday, when Tony Parker hit a 21-footer at the buzzer to secure an 86-84 win over Oklahoma City in a rematch of last season's Western Conference finals, which the Spurs lost in six games. Their strong start, which also includes a 99-95 victory at New Orleans on Wednesday, has come with Ginobili sidelined. Coach Gregg Popovich has said the 35-year-old guard "is really close" to returning from back spasms, which forced him to miss half the preseason after various injuries limited him to 34 games last season. Ginobili was used off the bench as the Spurs swept Utah (1-1) in the opening round of last season's postseason, holding the Jazz to 38.2 percent from the floor and 9 for 45 from beyond the arc. Ginobili scored 17 points while hitting half of his six 3-point attempts in an 87-81 win in the series finale. He's averaging 19.8 points over his last five regular-season matchups. San Antonio has won 10 of the last 11 meeting with the Jazz, averaging 103.1 points. The only defeat in that stretch came at Utah on April 9 with Tim Duncan out. Duncan enters this meeting after scoring 20 points with eight rebounds and three blocks against the Thunder. He was even better a night earlier, making 10 of 15 shots to finish with 24 points, 11 boards and three assists while blocking three shots. Parker, who scored 14 points Thursday, is averaging 21.9 over his last 16 overall games against Utah with San Antonio winning 13. The Jazz are looking to bounce back from Friday's 88-86 loss at New Orleans, giving up the decisive layup with 1.3 seconds left. That came two days after coach Tyrone Corbin chastised his team at halftime before it went on to a 113-94 victory over Dallas. "We learned a lesson," Corbin said. "We have to be more aggressive at the start of the game and play all 48 minutes. We didn't play our best basketball." Utah likely needs increased production from Al Jefferson, who has made 9 of 24 shots to total 22 points with 22 rebounds over the last two games. He averaged 19.2 points and 9.6 boards last season, and combined for 47 and 21, respectively, in the last two games of the playoff series with the Spurs. The Jazz began a stretch Friday with eight of 10 games on the road after going 11-22 away from home last season. Including playoffs, they have lost 28 of 30 at San Antonio.
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