Spurs guard Manu Ginobili sat in front of his locker at the AT&T Center not long ago, on one of his good days, and smiled as he discussed his greatest fear.

He was back to health after a left hamstring strain, feeling strong and virile and hoping against hope to last until the playoffs without another unwanted visit to the injury list.

“We don’t have time for another one,” Ginobili said the night of March 3, after spearheading a 114-75 win over Detroit that came without All-Star point guard Tony Parker. “That would be a big, big problem.”

A month later, like clockwork, the 35-year-old Ginobili is back on the shelf with another hamstring strain, this time in the right leg. The rest of his regular season is in jeopardy, his availability for the start of the postseason unknown.

Ginobili’s latest prolonged absence comes at a bad time for the Spurs’ bench, which was scuffling even with the former Sixth Man of the Year around to trigger the second-unit offense.

Wednesday night’s game against Orlando will be the 48th Ginobili has missed over the past two seasons. If nothing else, the Spurs’ reserves have a blueprint for playing without him.

“They have to depend on team ball,” said coach Gregg Popovich, whose club is 10-5 without Ginobili this season. “There are no superstars left coming off the bench. They’ve got to play really good offensive basketball in the sense of sharing it.”

At a time when the teams with title hopes would prefer to be surging toward the playoffs, the Spurs are limping toward the finish line.

Having gone 3-3 over the past six games, all of them against playoff-caliber opponents and all of them coming down to the final play of regulation, the Spurs find themselves in a tug-o-war with Oklahoma City for the top seed in the Western Conference.