What has been different about the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the NBA Finals? Something that had been missing in all of the previous four games of this championship series. The game of Manu Ginobili.
Tony Parker led the Spurs with 26 points, and Tim Duncan had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. It was Gregg Popovich’s insertion of Ginobili into the starting lineup, and the resulting 24 points Manu torched the Heat with that gave the Spurs’ 114 – 104 edge in the their last home game of the season. Scoring 17 combined points in all of games 2, 3 and 4, Ginobili was the spark plug that Popovich inserted into the Spurs’ core to give it some much needed juice and take the Heat to the brink of depression with their second Finals loss in three years.
Ginobili’s Game 5 start marked the first time this season that Popovich had used Manu for anything other than to come off the bench. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
This was also the same game in which Spurs’ Danny Green broke the NBA Finals record for 22 made 3-pointers. And how appropriate that he would do so in a game against the man that held this record, Ray Allen. Considering that there’s a game or two left in this series (this writer hopes it is just one), Green will certainly improve upon the mark.
I was ready to make a prediction as late as Game 4, but seeing how these Finals are more akin to a game of pinball than a test of strength between the leagues top two teams, I cannot even go as far as to venture a guess because the seemingly obvious pattern at this point isn’t even a remote possibility as far as Game 6 predictions are concerned.
When it looked like either the Heat or the Spurs were ready to take the reigns after their respective blowout wins, only to come back down to earth shattering every shred of conventional wisdom with them. Just as James appeared to have his mojo working again, coach Popovich regrouped the Spurs for containment in the second half of Game 6 and gave Boris Diaw the defensive assignment of frustrating “King” James into going 1 for 8.
Lets not forget about Parker’s ailing hamstring that could go at any moment, but all the while Parker is like a whirling dervish spinning around the painted area, abusing the Heat point guards.
Then we have my favorite storyline of this series: Currently holding a 9 point edge over Parker as the Spurs’ leading scorer, Green is quietly making a case to be these Finals MVP. And if Green pulls this off, he just might be the unlikeliest of NBA Finals MVPs since Chauncey Billups carried the Detroit Pistons to beat Los Angeles Lakers in 2004.
Imagine what will happen if the Spurs do indeed pull off this apparent upset over a Heat team manufactured for greatness. All summer long the discussion will turn to LeBron James’ legacy and how Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have one Finals series loss between them, but James is already down 1-2.
And while the home-court advantage is with the Heat, all that the Spurs need is one more win. Just one more win, baby.