by Marcel Mutoni@marcel_mutoni

The hallmark of the San Antonio Spurs’ magical season has been the team’s remarkable health. For such an old squad, they had managed to avoid major injuries for the most part … that is, until the stretch run.

Tim Duncan recently went down with a serious ankle sprain, and now a knee injury could have Manu Ginobili on the sidelines, too.

Ginobili injured his knee in the second quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies yesterday — the team is calling it a quadriceps contusion — and watched the Spurs lose their straight game for the first time this year.

The Express-News reports:

Ginobili suffered the injury with a little more than two minutes left in the second quarter, when Grizzlies center Marc Gasol caught him with a knee. Ginobili immediately came out of the game. He returned briefly in the second half, even scoring his first basket of the game, before calling it a night.

“At first, when I came to the bench, I thought I was going to be OK,” Ginobili said. “Then it stiffened up. I can’t put my full weight on it.” The injury, centered just above Ginobili’s left knee, is not considered serious, but it is considered painful. It is not immediately clear how long Ginobili might be unavailable to the Spurs, who are already playing without captain Tim Duncan.

Manu Ginobili hopes to play tonight against Portland, but it wouldn’t be a suprise if the team held him out just to be safe.

To make matters worse for the Spurs, the Lakers have roared back since the All-Star break (going 15-1 since then) and are now just 4 games back — with 9 games remaining, and a matchup in LA looming next month — breathing down their necks for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Things could get very interesting in the West before the Playoffs begin.