Manu allows Spurs to back off the edge

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: The Spurs grabbed Game 4 away in Dallas to even the series

DALLAS – Without the magic of Manu Ginobili in this first-round series being played at a maniacal fervor, the San Antonio Spurs, the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, could well be tied at the ankles with their their Eastern Conference brethren, teetering at the edge of the plank.

Ginobili’s 23 points and five assists against the relentless, eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks, the bulk of which came during a 40-17 swing in the first half, was the razor-thin difference in yet another game that came down to the wire. The Spurs — down 10 early, up 20 in the third quarter and down again in the fourth — finally sealed Game 4, 93-89, with Ginobili free throws.

Even as he creeps closer to 37 years old in July, the acrobatic Argentine was at his whirling dervish best, knifing into the lane, Euro-stepping past 7-foot defenders and twisting in mid-air for brilliant backhand finishes at the right side of the rim, and then at the left. His 3-ball wasn’t hitting and his path to the rim got smothered for much of the second half, yet Ginobili managed to get to the free-throw line eight times in the final 24 minutes, more than any player on either team did all game.

The red scratches and bruises flared across his arms and back were proof of the price he paid to get to the line.

“It’s going to be a little sore for sure,” Ginobili said when asked how his body will feel when he awakes Tuesday morning. “But at least it’s going to be sore after a good effort and we won. It was sore yesterday too, with a bad mood, too. So, glad we won.”

Had they not, the Spurs would be right there with the Pacers on the brink of total disaster, two No. 1 seeds going down in flames. For San Antonio, they press on now with homecourt advantage restored and critical Game 5 coming up quickly on Wednesday night.

There is concern, however, that All-Star point guard Tony Parker will continue to be gimpy. He twisted his left ankle in the second quarter and play was uneven throughout. He managed to log 30 minutes, but scored just 10 points, including a clutch pull-up jumper with 1:37 left, with three assists.

He left the American Airlines Center with the ankle taped a limping slightly. He said he was unsure if he will undergo an MRI in San Antonio on Tuesday. “We’ll see tomorrow,” he said.

Beyond Parker’s status and blowing a quickly allowing a 20-point lead to whittle down to eight before completely evaporating in the fourth quarter, the positive outlook for San Antonio is it finally found a way to get bench help beyond Ginobili. Boris Diaw scored 17 points, was crucial in the third quarter with eight points and hit the decisive 3-pointer off a Parker dish with 32.9 seconds to go. Patty Mills contributed 10 points on 3-for-5 shooting.

Still, a significant story of the series is the rejuvenated Ginobili, who much of America probably remembers flinging bad passes, missing shots and, ultimately, questioning his own basketball mortality after the Spurs’ loss in the 2013 Finals.

Besieged by various injuries throughout last season, Ginobili contemplated retirement, never for too long or too intently, but he acknowledges that the questions did flicker in his mind: Is it time? Are all the injuries just too much?

He signed a two-year, $14.5 million contract and made the decision to skip international competition last season.

“He really took it to heart because he wasn’t whole during The Finals,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s why for the first time he didn’t play overseas and he just lifted all summer, let his body recover and get stronger. It’s helped him a great deal so that he’s whole going into the playoffs this year. He wanted to do what he needed to do to be ready for his team and he did it.”

If he’s had to adjust his fearless, attacking style, it’s hard to tell. He’s the Spurs’ leading scorer in the first round at 19.8 ppg. He’s a tick behind Parker for the assists lead at 4.3, and he’s grabbing 4.0 rpg. He’s shooting 48.0 percent overall and 40.9 percent from 3-point range, going 9-for-22.

Most impressive is his driving statistics. He’s among the playoff leaders in getting to the rim, while by far being the oldest among the leaders. In this series he’s holding his own in terms of drives to the basket and scoring average with 28-year-old Monta Ellis, Dallas’ leading scorer.

“I know I’m not 27 anymore, but I am feeling much better than last season with my legs and confidence,” Ginobili said. “With the way they play ‘D,’ I’ve got to try to be more aggressive because shooters are not open in the corners as usual. I just think I had a bad season last year with injuries. This year I am taking more care of myself, doing more treatments. I’m going back to normality.”

In a series that’s gone bonkers, Ginobili has provided the stability that at least, for now, has the Spurs backing away from the edge of the plank.

23 Comments

  1. Mark Smith says:

    Ginobili, it is such a great player, with more brains than an athletic body, he has changed the game

    Lets not forget the 2 points he did in game 3, which were bested by carters 3pointer

  2. Jean Paul says:

    Manu plays will all his heart. A loss in the NBA 2013 finals should notbe blamed against him. It only happened because LBJ was able to check his strategy and the whole Spurs was overwhelmed by surprised attacks by HEAT esp by LBJ but give it credit also to Ray Allen’s big shots in Game 6. It was only an off-night by Manu in their game 7 vs miami in 2013 finals. But still, hat’s off to you Manu, coach pop and the rest of the Spurs team.

  3. SUPER MANU says:

    MANU always comes to the rescue. Give me a 37-year old player who does what he does on a nightly basis. GINOBILI is a true NBA legend. GO SPURS GO !!!

  4. Eddy says:

    Manu Ginobili is one of the best player all time. Believe or not. He shares the ball with the team and when there´s 1 minute left, nobody sharper than him.

  5. ix says:

    Now,if only Danny Green can get it going with his shooting so we can go back to the normal Spurs winning by double digit margins.

  6. Ivan says:

    LEGEND

  7. MFFL says:

    That Monte Ellis miss. :( T_T
    Manu still as good as he is though.

    • MrNBA says:

      It wasn’t the Monta miss. It was the Harris turnover, the many Dirk bricks and the Blair kick in the head.

  8. Batigol says:

    Manu. A true gentleman, inside and outside the court. When the hard times come, it’s not the new generation of Spurs who took over. It was the experienced player, with cold mind… Go Spurs, #weginobilieve!

  9. Marce says:

    Que excelente jugador es este tal Manu Ginobili !!!

  10. rickjames says:

    manu ginobli is the biggest flopper ive ever seen i swear everytime he got the ball he flopped hahah

  11. Abdi says:

    Prove all the haters wrong GINOBILI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Too bad he wasnt like this in the fianls :(

  12. wooderson says:

    it was more patty than manu but yes when manu patty and belinelli play well the spurs win

  13. nice says:

    well written article

  14. vinsanefan says:

    “GINOBILI!!!!”

    -Charles Barkley

  15. theholyspectator says:

    could it be possible to have both number 1 seeds from both conferences get knocked out in the first round? this is one of the best playoffs weve had in a minute!

    • Marco29 says:

      Agreed. First rounds of the playoffs are really intense this year, even Charlotte didn’t go down easily despite beeing swept.
      Don’t forget OKC are also in a dog fight with Memphis and could be in a bad position if they lose game 5 as Indiana did. Home court advantage is not what it used to be anymore…

  16. Marco29 says:

    It’s great to see Manu back at 100% and playing at a high level. His contribution is much needed and so far he has been carrying the Spurs in the Series. Let’s hope Parker isn’t hurt too deeply and Green and Belinelli find a way to contribute too.
    Game 4 was a must win but this Series is not over yet. Game 5 will another tough challenge as the Mavs are not ready to give up. Go Spurs Go

  17. blah says:

    I never seen such an exciting player as Manu Ginobili!
    Hope the Spurs can make a deep run into the PO

  18. robmabry says:

    Jeff – thanks for the article on Manu. I’ve been a Spurs fan since I moved to San Antonio in 1997 and they have been a joy to watch on and off the court. Ginobili is the Spur’s heart and last night he just would not let them lose. I feared that after the poor performance in the 2013 Finals and the devastating loss that he would retire. I questioned the wisdom of bringing him back at nearly 7 million per year. Never question the heart of a champion.

  19. Latigo Spurs Rapper says:

    I hope another Spurs bench player would step up since Tony Parker might not be 100% in the next game. Go Spurs Go!

    • Marco29 says:

      Don’t forget Diaw’s contribution from the bench too and also Patty Mills. Spurs bench outscored Dalla’s bench 50 to 30. I believe it’s more Green and Leonard who need to step up and Belinelli as well. Hope the Spurs get game 5 and do not land in the same situation as Indiana.

      • GREGORY INGRAM says:

        Im sorry to say you can almost write the scripture this year, the NBA wants the heat to win again so Lebron can be mentioned in the same breath as MJ so whoever goes to the Finals Im willing to bet my first born that Miami is going to win it all and truly despise them the NBA see it as money for them any other team is going to hurt the T.V. ratings and the NBA will lose money lots of money, so go ahead Lebron starting sizing up your next Championship ring.

        v/r

        Greg