Manu Ginobili was having the worst playoff series of his life. Through the first four, he averaged just 7.5 points on 34.5 percent shooting, 1.5 rebounds, and three assists. So Gregg Popovich put him in the starting lineup. San Antonio is now one win away from another championship. Never doubt the Spurs.
"I told you Manu was going to have a big game," Tony Parker said. "You didn't listen." He's right, we didn't. Ginobili turns 36 next month, and spent the year racking up injuries, and seems like the first of the Big Three to hit his decline. He was openly pondering retirement on Saturday. But here's the thing: no other team has the best sixth man of the decade, just waiting to slide into the starting lineup when you need a tactical change. Spurs desperation is not like other teams' desperation.
So Ginobili went out and scored 24 points, his most in more than a year, and added 10 assists to go with it. Seven of those points came on a 12-1 Spurs run to seal the third quarter, pulling away after Miami had closed to within one. More than the statsheet, he looked like his old self: if he's lost a step, he hasn't lost the swagger.
The finals has been all counterpunching. Since a close Game 1, the teams have traded double-digit wins. In Game 4, Miami went small, starting Mike Miller. Popovich countered with Ginobili last night.
That's the series in a nutshell. The Heat have the best player; the Spurs have the second- and third- best. We knew this would come down to the supporting casts, and the fact remains that Popovich has more and better pieces to play with. Ginobili over Miller. Danny Green over Ray Allen (at least in 2013). Allen poured in 21 points last night off the bench, on 4-4 from three. Green scored 24, including six three-pointers, en route to setting an NBA finals record for threes made with 25. The record used to belong to Allen.
The Spurs' youths are more composed than the Heat's. The Spurs' veterans are more adaptable than the Heat's, able to contribute through aching bodies or off-nights, and capable of taking control of a game. Game 6 is in Miami tomorrow night, and we fully expect LeBron to score 45. But after that, the way this series and this Spurs dynasty has gone, we're not ready to rule out A Tracy McGrady Game.