After committing three turnovers in a minute and a half down the stretch on Tuesday night against the Wizards, Manu Ginobili came to Charlotte ready to ball. He was spectacular in his 24 minutes, finishing with 27 points, three boards and a couple of assists and sporting a nice +15 for the game. While he wasn't perfect down the stretch in this tight contest, he did turn the ball over twice and missed a freebie in the final four minutes, he was so good otherwise that it didn't matter. We'll get to his late-game wizardry at the end of the post. Let's start it with the guy who is still making me smile with his unbelievably consistent play 18 years in, Tim Duncan.
Timmy was just the second most prolific shot blocking Spur in this one with three blocks and came up one shy of the legendary Matt Bonner's production. Here's big Tim denying Michael Kidd-Gilchrist after MKG takes a power dribble and makes a strong move to the rack. That's Duncan's 2860th block and with his other two he sits just 32 back of Patrick Ewing for seventh on the all-time list.
Now that we've given Timmy a little love it's time to start with the Manu magic. It didn't take long after Gino checked in to see that he had it going on Wednesday night. He gets the ball from Cory Joseph on the wing and takes a one-dribble drive towards the baseline as MKG tries to deny him. Then it's vintage Manu putting his body into the defender before hanging in the air and knocking down a tough jumper.
I'm not sure if anyone runs the pick-and-roll with Manu better than Tiago Splitter and the two of them have become quite the destructive South American duo. Splitter sets the high screen and Manu drives left while drawing both defenders as Tiago cuts down the lane. The defenders anticipate a Manu shot attempt a little early and that allows him to make the deposit to Splitter for the pretty fake into his patented reverse.
Another high screen from Splitter springs Manu into the lane where a slight fake to CoJo and the threat of Patty Mills in the corner clears the left side for him. Jason Maxiell does a nice job of making Gino attempt a tough layup but Manu couldn't miss on Wednesday night.
This time it's the underrated passing of Tiago Splitter that gets Manu the ball in the lane for the score. The Brazilian big hits the cutting Ginobili with a great bounce pass that leads to another tough bucket for The Manu. It's a little ticky-tack, but Manu takes the bump from Marvin Williams and gets another hanging J to drop. So much great Manu and we're still in the first quarter.
After a quiet second quarter from Gino we see Patty Mills push the ball up the floor as the first half is coming to a close. Mills takes the ball left and Manu does a great job of moving to give Patty an easy outlet as he's doubled. Manu cans the triple because what else could have happened, it was just his night.
I like it when Duncan erases shots so here's another block from the veteran. Cody Zeller decides that he wants to see just how much the old rim protector has left and gets his answer in the form of an emphatic but controlled rejection. As per usual, Timmy's block stays inbounds and the Spurs gain possession. Perfect.
Check out this nice inbounds play from the good guys. Timmy sets a back screen that levels the unsuspecting MKG. That leaves Ginobili open under the basket as Maxiell has to bring help on Duncan after Tim received the bounce pass from Boris Diaw. Tim tallies a helper as he splits a couple of defenders with a bouncer to Gino for the uncontested layup.
There aren't too many guys in the league that do this so routinely. Danny Green makes a careless pass to Duncan that is picked off by Jason Maxiell and the big man has nothing but open court between him and a bucket until Danny sprints back and makes an incredible play on the ball. Great stuff from Green who also stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points, three boards and assists as well as a steal and a block.
And we're back to the man of the night. The Hornets fought themselves back into the game and perhaps a shred of doubt entered your mind with all of the Spurs' disappointing losses this season. Ginobili had none of that with just a two point lead as he went right from the right wing, took two dribbles and Euro-stepped his way to a leaning push shot. I really had a fantastic time watching Gino work for the whole contest.
The Hornets just wouldn't go away so Manu took it upon himself to finish them off by scoring eight straight points for San Antonio. There's the above and-one and then after a miss and a turnover from Gino he curls off a Matt Bonner pitch and goes right at Cody Zeller after the Hornets switch. Somehow Manu then manages to not only shoot left as he's falling right, but he gets enough under it to keep it out of Zeller and the high flying Biyombo's reach before it banks home without catching iron.
Certainly now feeling it, Manu wastes no time on the next Spurs possession as he brings the ball up and swishes a step-back trey behind a drag screen from Splitter to push the SA advantage to six.
On an unrelated note, how about that Charlotte court design? I love it.
And here's the last field goal that the Spurs made in this contest and who else would tally the assist but Ginobili? Manu and Tiago run another high screen and roll and Biyombo has to pick up Gino after Gerald Henderson is delayed working around Splitter. That leaves a lot of room in the lane for Sparkles and P.J. Hairston, who managed to show up Lance Stephenson with one of the great flops of the year while almost taking out Gregg Popovich earlier in the game, is stuck choosing between an open layup for Tiago or an open corner three from Danny. That's a really tough spot for anyone and a momentary decision to scramble back out to Danny gives Tiago the left side of the basket. That made ten straight points that Manu scored or assisted on for the Spurs and gave the Spurs an eight-point margin that proved to be too much for the no-quit Hornets.
Bonus content: Aron Baynes has been relegated to the end of the bench after a very solid first third of the season with the return of Splitter and some neck problems. After averaging 17 minutes while appearing in the each of the first 25 games of the season, he's seen the floor in only three of the last six games and has only played 16 minutes total. But in a reminder of why I love this team and what makes them so easy to root for, there he is up out of his seat rooting on his teammates with an enthusiastic fist pump and clap. Great show, Bangers.
That's it for this one. It was good to see the Spurs pick up their fifth win in seven games. Let's hope they keep it rolling and deal the Blazers a loss on Friday night in San Antonio.