Late in the first half of the Wednesday's game, San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili fell to the ground, causing an anxious moment.
Was Ginobili, who missed eight games this season with a hamstring injury, hurt again? As it turned out, the only damage was to the basketball shoe that blew out when Ginobili's foot twisted.
Ginobili's left foot burst through the bottom of his sneaker as he planted on defense, leaving the shoe dangling from his ankle as if it had been unzipped. The Spurs called a timeout to check on Ginobili, who shrugged when asked what happened.
Ginobili put on the new shoe and led a third-quarter rally that helped the Spurs beat the Detroit Pistons 120-110 at AT&T Center. San Antonio, returning home after going 6-3 on a long road trip, improved to 41-16.
Ginobili, scoreless in the first half, produced nine points and three assists in the third quarter. During one stretch of less than three minutes, his passing and shooting accounted for 13 straight Spurs points. He finished with 16 points and nine assists.
"I needed to play better," Ginobili said. "I knew struggled in the first half. I was slow."
Guard Marco Belinelli, a reserve like Ginobili, led the Spurs with 20 points. He converted all four of his 3-point attempts.
San Antonio, the most accurate 3-point shooting team in the NBA, hit nine of 19. "Their ability to shoot the basketball separates them from being a very good team to close to a great team," Detroit interim head coach John Loyer said.
Forward Kawhi Leonard, back in the lineup after missing 15 games with a broken hand, scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds. Leonard seemed a little nervous early in the game, but that was no surprise under the circumstances.
"I thought he was great," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It's a long time to not be on a court. He did better than I would have thought after all that time."
San Antonio was sloppy in the first half, committing 11 turnovers -- three by Ginobili. But the Spurs reduced their turnovers to seven in the second half, when they produced 20 assists. They assisted on 34 of their 44 baskets in the game.
"That was impressive," Popovich said "You get 34 assists, that's really incredible, actually. The ball movement was fantastic."
Forward Tim Duncan pointed out something that most around the NBA already know. "We're all very unselfish players," Duncan said. "We finally found our rhythm and made the right passes."
Loyer said that makes defending the Spurs difficult. "Against the Spurs, you do not guard two or three players," Loyer said. "You guard a system of players."
Forward Josh Smith led Detroit (23-35) with 24 points. Center Andre Drummond had 16 points and 17 rebounds. Smith launched an all-out assault on the Spurs in the first half. He scored 20 points -- four more than his average -- while grabbing five rebounds and making five assists.
Kyle Singler, a 6-foot-8 forward by trade who played guard Wednesday, wasn't bad either in the half, producing 11 first-half points. He hit all five of his shots before the break and finished 7-for-8.
Despite the work of Smith and Singler, the Spurs managed to survive the half with a 57-53 lead. San Antonio finished with a 10-0 push, with Duncan scoring the last six points.
Then Ginobili pushed them toward the finish line after a pit stop. "They turned the ball over, and they had their moments, but they never faltered as a team," Singler said. "They still played well and knocked down big shots, so they are always going to be in it at the end."
NOTES: Spurs G Tony Parker missed his fifth consecutive game while resting and recovering from various physical ailments. Coach Gregg Popovich said Parker would return by Sunday's game against the Dallas Mavericks at the latest. The Spurs face the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday. ... Parker told the San Antonio Express-News on Wednesday that he would retire from international basketball after the 2016 Olympics, but he has no plans to leave the NBA. A report from NBA Greece indicated that Parker would retire from the NBA and the French national team in two years.