Before walking to the center circle at AT&T Center Saturday against the Nuggets, Stephen Jackson's only starting assignment since returning to the Spurs in a trade March 16 had come in a loss at Utah in which Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker did not play.

It was the second game of an odd set of back-to-back games against the Jazz, and 11 straight wins had solidified the team's hold on first place in the Southwest Division.

The Big Three were given the night off, and Jackson struggled, making only 2 of 13 shots.

His starting assignment against the Nuggets was significantly more productive, and it was necessitated by the quadriceps tendinitis that is going to keep Kawhi Leonard out of tonight's game against the Clippers and the six games on the road trip starting Wednesday in Boston.

In 27-plus minutes, Jackson scored nine points and grabbed nine rebounds with three assists and two steals.

"Jack has the ability to do that," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He played a great all-around game, and he helped us stay in the lead and not lose it, momentum-wise. He was solid throughout the night."

Though Jackson was comfortable coming off the bench, sliding into a starting spot isn't new for him.

"Even with Kawhi, we play team ball," he said. "That's just the way we play. We've got our key guys, but at the same time, we like to make the right play.

"The right play always gets you a win, or nine out of 10 times."