Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images
Manu Ginobili scored 24 straight for the Spurs in the win on Wednesday.
ATLANTA, Feb. 21 (AP) -- Manu Ginobili is thriving as the San Antonio Spurs' sixth man.
Ginobili scored a season-high 40 points, including 24 straight for San Antonio in the first half, and Tim Duncan had 30 to help the Spurs beat the Atlanta Hawks 103-96 on Wednesday night.
"I've had some good stretches in my career,'' Ginobili said. "Today was kind of impressive. In those three or four minutes, or however many they were, maybe, yeah, it was some of the best.''
The Spurs, who pulled within eight games of Dallas in the Southwest Division, have won four straight after losing four of five.
Entering the game late in the first quarter, Ginobili missed two of his first four shots before hitting six in a row from the field and all seven attempts on free throws.The Spurs led 39-23 at the end of his flurry, and Ginobili had 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting before halftime.
"He was pretty special tonight,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's just a heck of a hard cover for any defense because he does everything a little bit different than most players. I don't even know what he's going to do half of the time. Tonight he was really on, and he got us over the hump.''
Joe Johnson scored 30 points for the Hawks, who have lost two straight.
Zaza Pachulia scored 15 of his 23 points in the third quarter. He went 6-for-7 from the field, twice helping Atlanta tie the game in the final minute of the period.
"Ginobili was huge for their team, and I don't care how you cut it, when you have a low post player like Duncan, it just makes it tough on any team,'' Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "We tried to double-team him at times, but sometimes we didn't get the double there quick enough and he was still making plays.''
San Antonio never trailed after Tony Parker's layup made it 4-3. Parker missed eight straight shots before his 20-footer gave the Spurs a 91-82 lead with 3:51 remaining.
A flagrant foul by Johnson led to a five-point possession for the Spurs, as Brent Barry hit three foul shots and Duncan had two. Woodson was hit with a technical foul during the possession, which came with 8:07 left and made it 92-73.
Atlanta missed 14 of 35 free throws and went just 1-for-6 beyond the arc.
"I guess you could say it cost us the game,'' Hawks guard Speedy Claxton said. "Next game, we have to try to stay focused at the line.''
Ginobili never scored more than 29 points last season before finishing with 32 in a victory over Sacramento in the first round of the playoffs.
In the last nine games as San Antonio's sixth man, Ginobili averaged 17.4 points in 25 minutes to become the NBA's second-most productive reserve. Only Chicago's Ben Gordon, with 22.5 points in 31.1 minutes, had a better average.
"After I hit those first four field goals, of course I started feeling well, and Pop starting calling every single play for me,'' Ginobili said. "All of them worked. I was feeling good. Even the mid-range jumpers were falling in.''
Woodson used Johnson and Josh Childress to defend Ginobili in the second half.
"They starter playing better D,'' Ginobili said. "They are so long and athletic, they are always in the passing lanes. They are a tough team when the get in a rhythm, so they started running, making some shots. We had a really ugly stretch there.''
Atlanta, which won three of four before the All-Star break, closed within five on Childress' follow dunk with 2:47 remaining. Josh Smith had 11 rebounds for the Hawks.
Notes: The Spurs improved to 22-4 this season when scoring 100 points. ... At 20-10, San Antonio is attempting to become the third team in history to have 10 consecutive winning seasons on the road. The Lakers did it from 1979-90 and the Celtics from 1959-68. ... Atlanta's Tyronn Lue missed his sixth straight game with a sore hamstring.