No one would say Manu Ginobili is not a competitor. But through four games of the 2013 NBA Finals, Ginobili had been considered a non-factor for the San Antonio Spurs. That was until Sunday night on June 16 when Spurs coach Greg Popovich inserted Ginobili into the starting lineup and Ginobili responded with 24 points and 10 assists in a 114-104 victory over the Miami Heat in a crucial Game 5.
“Manu is a competitor, he just keeps pushing, and he does what he does,” Popovich said. “He’s seen film. He has confidence in himself that he should just continue to compete. That’s what he’s done his whole career. And tonight he played his best game in a while.”
The Spurs stating five combined to score 107 points as each starter was in double digits. Tony Parker had a game-high 26 points, Tim Duncan pitched in 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Kawhi Leonard added 16 points with 8 rebounds.
“I think every one of us wants this very badly from the top on down. We’re trying to play that way,” Duncan said. “We just need to put it on the floor and understand the kind of energy and the kind of aggression they’re going to come with next game, and counter that with continuing to play well, moving the ball, and finding ways to find open guys.”
Not to be overlooked, Spurs’ guard Danny Green scored 24 points and made NBA Finals history. Early into the third quarter, Green hit a 3-point shot that placed him in sole possession of most 3-pointers made in an NBA Finals with 23 total. Green finished the game shooting 6-for-10 from 3-point range as he surpassed current Miami Heat opponent Ray Allen’s previous record of 22 from 2008. With a possibility of two games left in the series, Green holds the record with 25 and counting that may not be broken for years to come.
“It’s an honor to play on the same floor as some of these guys,” Green said. “Growing up I used to play against them all the time. I didn’t know I would break a record of his. It’s amazing. Very surreal.”
The Spurs lead for the entire game as Miami struggled to contain Spurs shooters as San Antonio shot a series high 60 percent from the field. But the Spurs tallied 18 turnovers that allowed the Heat to cut what was a nine-point lead at halftime to a one point game midway through the third quarter. It was Ginobili who scored seven of the Spurs’ last 12 points in the third that pushed the lead back to 12, and the Spurs held off a late Miami surge in the fourth to take Game 5.
The AT&T Center also responded to Ginobili’s efforts as “Manu” chants range through the arena at the end of the third quarter. A moment not lost on Ginobili.
“As I said before, I needed it. I was having a tough time scoring, and I needed to feel like the game was coming to me, and I was being able to attack the rim, get to the free throw line, and make a couple of shots,” Ginobili said. “So it felt great when I heard that. To feel that I really helped the team to get that 20 point lead, it was a much needed moment in the series. So I’m glad to see it happen.”
San Antonio now stands one win away from capturing the franchise’s fifth NBA title. Game 6 is Tuesday night back in Miami with an 8 pm start time on ABC.