Latest update March 31st, 2023 12:59 AM
Jun 18, 2013 Sports
SAN ANTONIO – Something had changed about the Manu Ginobili supporters in this town.
The tattooed, middle-aged guy at the bar with the No. 20 jersey spoke about the fallen San Antonio Spurs star as if he was an uncle on life support. His countrymen from Argentina were so concerned, so unaccustomed to seeing him play like this, that they brought a banner to Game 5 of the NBA Finals just to remind him of their support: “We Ginobilieve,” it read.
The love wasn’t waning, but the faith most certainly was.
Until Sunday night.
After a surprise start from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich that will go down as the latest stroke of genius in his celebrated coaching career, Ginobili had 24 points and 10 assists in San Antonio’s 114-104 win vs. the Miami Heat.
Leading the series 3-2, the Spurs head back to Miami for Game 6 today with a chance to win the organization’s fifth championship. Since the league went to a 2-3-2 Finals format in 1985, and the series has been tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner has won the series seven of 10 times.
A keen battle is anticipated with the Heat looking to home court advantage to propel them to leveling the series today and go to win it in Game 7 also at home. However, if the Spurs of the last game show up…then the Heat are in for serious trouble.
One day before Ginobili’s vintage performance, he admitted that there was a remote chance he would retire after this season when he becomes a free agent. Yet with his play stellar from beginning to end Sunday and the Heat unsure how to handle this new look, the Spurs found themselves dominating. Ginobili is the first player to start an NBA Finals game after not starting in the regular season since Marcus Camby for the New York Knicks in 1999.
“I just had a good game,” Ginobili said. “Playing with Tony (Parker) in the first few minutes helped me,” Ginobili said. “I tried to be aggressive. I haven’t been making shots lately, but I’ve been passing well. Today, I was just able to get it going.”
The Spurs shot 60% from the field, with Tim Duncan adding 17 points and 12 rebounds. Guard Danny Green scored 24 points, hitting six of 10 from long range to set a Finals record for three-pointers.
Heat shooting guard Ray Allen had set the record of 22 in the 2008 Finals with the Boston Celtics. Green has hit 25 of 38 three-pointers in the series.
Parker showed no ill effects of the hamstring strain that ails him, scoring 26 points. The Heat were held to 43% shooting, with LeBron James unable to continue the powerful play he had shown in Game 4, as he hit eight of 22 shots for 25 points.
Dwayne Wade had another good game with 25 points and 10 assists. Allen scored 21 off the bench. “Their starters played big tonight,” Wade said. “Every time we made a run they answered.” Ginobili was the answer that no one saw coming.
This season-long stretch of erratic play had made it seem as if the Ginobili of old had been replaced by old man Ginobili, and the doubt that surrounded him was entirely warranted considering the depth of his struggles. He had scored 20-plus points just six times during the entire regular season, and just once in the playoffs.
And while his game is about so much more than that, the electric playmaking that he has so long been known for was nowhere to be found either.
Afterward, Parker couldn’t help but take a jab at reporters who had deemed his game dead.
Ginobili hadn’t started since the 2012 Western Conference Finals, when Popovich pulled the same ploy for the final two games of a six-game series loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was a desperate move in a desperate time for a coach who had admitted his concern about Ginobili coming in.
Popovich told his team that Ginobili would be in the starting lineup before practice on Saturday, though their secret was kept quiet until tipoff.
The move worked from the start, as the Spurs led 32-19 after a first quarter in which their swarming defence and new-look offence were dominant. Ginobili waited all of 19 seconds before making the sort of impact that has been missing for most of the postseason, and put the Heat on their heels in the process.
He hit a shot from the left wing that was originally ruled a three-pointer but later deemed a two. He found Danny Green for a layup on the next possession, then Duncan for a dunk the next time down. Ginobili hit two free throws after an aggressive drive and foul, then finessed a tight pocket pass through two defenders to find Duncan for a floater that put the Spurs up 10-6. In the span of 130 seconds, Ginobili had put his fingerprints on more plays than the first four games combined.
Parker took the lead from there, turning a 17-17 tie into the 13-point edge entering the second quarter by showing yet again that his ailing hamstring wasn’t hampering him.
He slithered past Norris Cole for a scoop shot, hit two free throws after a drive and foul, then backed him down in the post for another bucket.
And with Green continuing his unreal run of three-point shooting by hitting three of four in the first half, it seemed San Antonio would control the action all night long.
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