"It was great to have Manu back," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He does what he does. He makes big shots. He creates problems for the opponent and he's got a great will, a great desire. I'll worry all night about how he'll feel in the morning. If he says he feels great, then that will be a good sign for our team."
In his 11th season, Ginobili has battled leg injuries all season and was playing for the second time following a nine-game absence due to a strained right hamstring. He looked like his old self, going 6-for-13 from the field and 3-for-5 on 3s in 19 minutes.
"I feel good," Ginobili said. "I'm very happy that I played the whole game, that I didn't get hurt and that I scored a little bit."
Tim Duncan added 17 points and 10 rebounds, Matt Bonner scored 10 points and Kawhi Leonard had 8 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio.
Dwight Howard posted 20 points and 15 rebounds, Steve Nash scored 16 points, and Pau Gasol added 16 points and 16 rebounds for Los Angeles.
Despite the double-doubles from Howard and Gasol, the Lakers failed to take full advantage of their inside presence, much to the consternation of the injured Kobe Bryant, who watched the national broadcast.
"Post. Post. Post," Bryant, sidelined with a torn Achilles, tweeted in reference to the Lakers' offense.
"Yea, that's what we did," D'Antoni said when asked about Bryant's tweet. "It's great to have that commentary."
Los Angeles' height caused San Antonio problems early as the Spurs missed their first three shots all inside the paint as they altered their shots to avoid Howard and Gasol.
Nash, who returned after missing nine games with a hip/hamstring injury, gave the Lakers their only lead with a jumper on the game's opening possession.
Duncan broke the drought, hitting a pair of jumpers over Gasol that gave San Antonio a 4-2 lead with 9:33 remaining and the Spurs led the rest of the way.
"It was a very physical game," Duncan said. "It was a good start to our playoff run. We shook off a lot of cobwebs we've had over the past 10 games or so. It was great to have everybody back out there together. It was a good start overall."
The Lakers shot 35 percent from the field in the first half, primarily missing shots from 11 feet and out.
Spurs 91,Lakers 79
R Manu Ginobili scores 18 points in his second game back from a hamstring injury to lift San Antonio.