BOSTON — The San Antonio Spurs are in the thick of the playoff race again after getting back one of the key players from their championship teams.

He was sitting on their bench the whole time.

Making his 12th straight start since Tony Parker went out with a broken right hand, Manu Ginobili scored 28 points and added seven assists to lead San Antonio to a 94-73 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday night and help the Spurs jump from a precarious eighth place in the Western Conference into a tie for sixth.

“Manu’s been playing great for the last month. He’s basically taken over the team,” Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s been the same Manu we’ve had when we won championships. Without Tony, it’s really important for somebody to step up, and he’s done it.”

Richard Jefferson added 16 points and 11 rebounds, Tim Duncan had eight points and nine boards, and DeJuan Blair grabbed 10 of his 11 rebounds in the fourth quarter. The Spurs have now won 12 of 16 to move into a three-way tie with Portland and Oklahoma City for sixth place in the West.

“We had a very, very slow start to the season, and we are paying for it now,” Ginobili said. “We should be five wins ahead of where we are.”

Paul Pierce scored 18 points, and Kevin Garnett had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, which had won six of its last seven overall and seven of eight at home. The Celtics posted their lowest point total of the season, their worst home loss of the year, and their third loss by 20 or more since Feb. 25.

“This does not change our progress,” said Ray Allen, who scored seven points on 2-for-9 shooting. “You trip up a little here, but it doesn’t change the mission we’re on or the direction we’re heading.”

Since moving into the starting lineup, Ginobili has averaged 24 points per game.

He had 16 points by halftime and scored eight more in the third quarter, when he hit a running, one-handed, 25-foot bank shot at the buzzer to give the Spurs a 77-60 lead.

The Celtics trailed just 44-43 at halftime, but the Spurs scored the first 12 points of the second half.

“It was one of those nights we were awful,” Boston Coach Doc Rivers said. “Ginobili dominated this game.”


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