From the moment that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich inserted Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, it was an unusual night. However, the incredible performance from the long-time Spurs guard in San Antonio’s 114-104 win propelled the experience from interesting to transcendant.
Ginobili began the game by hitting a semi-controversial three-pointer (it was clearly a two-point field goal upon further review, but he accounted (via scoring or assisting) for the first 9 points of the game for San Antonio, and that was just the beginning. Manu finished with 24 points (on 8-for-14 shooting) to go along with 8 assists, and it almost appeared as if the 35-year-old guard had entered a time machine between Games 4 and 5.
Prior to the explosion on Sunday night, Ginobili had scored just 30 points total in the first four games of the series, and there was a real concern that the Argentinian guard had fallen off of the cliff as he nears the end of his career. Between the fact that he has achieved “legend” status in San Antonio and the stage in which his explosion occurred, it was a performance for the ages for Ginobili.
Elsewhere for the Spurs, Danny Green continued his incredible shooting spree with yet another 6-for-10 day from three-point distance, and in the process, he broke Ray Allen’s record with his 23rd made three-pointer of the Finals at the 9:40 mark of the 3rd quarter. Green entered the game having shot a ridiculous 19-for-28 from beyond the arc, and with his 5th consecutive crazy output, the former UNC guard is now shooting 65.8% (25-for-38) from three in the series. In short, it has been an absolute barrage from Danny Green in a way that has never been seen before in the NBA Finals.
For the Heat, it was clearly a disappointing outcome. The “Big Three” combined for a solid 66 points, but they shot just 25-for-55 (45%) from the field, and the Miami supporting cast failed to show up for the game. Mario Chalmers struggled mightily, finishing 2-for-10 from the field, and the duo of Shane Battier and Mike Miller wasn’t much help either. The lone “bright spot” for Miami was the sharp shooting from future Hall of Famer Ray Allen, as he finished the night with 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting including 4-for-4 from downtown, and a 4-point play that keyed a 12-0 first half run for the Heat.
In a game that featured multiple lopsided runs for both teams, the “finisher” occurred on the side of the Spurs. San Antonio blazed to a 19-1 run over 5+ minutes to take 94-75 lead with 9:32 left in the game, and when the dust settled, they were able to hold on for dear life down the stretch. Miami battled valiantly following this massive surge, but for all intensive purposes, the game was over at the completion of that 18-point spurt.
Lost in the madness (and madness is the most appropriate word) of Danny Green and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs leading duo of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan were quietly outstanding on Sunday evening. Parker weaved his way through the staunch Heat defense to the tune of 26 points (on 10-for-14 shooting) and 5 assists, while Duncan was his always-consistent self. The greatest power forward of all-time (by my estimation) threw up yet another double-double, and his 17-point, 12-rebound performance combined with stellar defense set the stage for the perimeter explosion.
In grabbing the pivotal Game 5 victory, the Spurs did what they absolutely had to do. With the final two games of the series set to take place in Miami, Game 5 was an absolute must-win for the Spurs, and they took care of business in a special way, shooting a blistering 60% from the field in one of the most impressive offensive showings that you will ever see. Manu Ginobili’s performance will be remembered forever in the Lone Star state, and if he chooses to retire (as rumored), his final game in San Antonio was the perfect ending. As the series shifts to Miami, it is far from over, but the defending champions have their work cut out for them against a Spurs team that was firing on all cylinders in Game 5.