Those who doubted Manu Ginobili were wrong, and so were those who thought Tony Parker couldn’t have enough in him to put on a show in the second half, or that Danny Green would stop hitting three pointers at some point. Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard completed the offensive juggernaut of a game the San Antonio Spurs had, now only one win away from winning the 2013 NBA Finals.
After game 3, it seemed like the Spurs might have wasted too much of their offensive ammunition in one try, and that certain shots wouldn’t go in a second time. Danny Green answered with six more three pointers, finding himself wide open again and again, finishing with 24 points, setting a new finals record (breaking Ray Allen’s previous of 22) with 25 three pointers in the first five games, hitting them at an accuracy of 65.8%.
While the Spurs’ defense did allow 104 points, it kept the Heat on 43% from the field and in a high possession game like it was, this was enough to keep themselves far away from the Heat for most of the game, avoiding some worrying moments like Miami cutting the lead down to one during the third quarter before having another defensive breakdown.
The Spurs crowded the paint and forced the Heat to think once again, which didn’t work too well for the defending NBA champions, who are now on the verge of losing their title. The moment Boris Diaw started guarding LeBron James, the Heat’s offense went out of sync once again, allowing a 21-2 run by the Spurs, opening a 20-point lead. Miami got back to eight points behind with 1:37 left, filling the arena with a sense of dread.
But Tony Parker wasn’t about to be part of a huge collapse. He drove to the basket, and hit a seemingly impossible shot on LeBron James to bring it back up to 10 and pretty much end the game. Parker finished with 26 points and 5 assists, putting any doubts about his hamstring behind, at least for one more day.
But the big story was Manu Ginobili, who was bashed and criticized, rightfully so, by pretty much everyone following the game 4 loss and his entire performance this series. Gregg Popovich doesn’t play by the rules, so in order to show just how much faith he has in his Argentine Phenom, he put Ginobili in the starting lineup, making him the first player since the 1999 finals to have 0 starts during the regular season and get one in the finals.
What did he get in return? Vintage Ginobili; in short, his best game of the season. The usual unstoppable and unpredictable driving to the basket, scoring 24 points on 8-of-14 from the field and getting to the line 8 times (7-of-8), helping out with 10 assists. Without him on the bench, the secondary unit combined for only 7 points. It didn’t matter. Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard combined for 33 points to make up for it.
The Spurs were at their best with Ginobili on the floor (+19), compared to the -1 for Parker and only +2 for both Duncan and Leonard. The Spurs played their own version of small ball and won, making the most of the moment when Chris Bosh wasn’t on the floor, as the Heat’s defense fell apart without him (Bosh had a +7). San Antonio shot 60% from the field and 40.9% from beyond the arc, making the 18 turnovers look like a meaningless statistic.
One win, and it’s a fifth ring for Duncan and Popovich, a fourth for Ginobili and Parker, a second for Matt Bonner and a first for the rest. Only two days and a flight to Miami, where hopefully they won’t need to play two games. Fatigue will become a factor, more than it was in game 5, but with their belief in Ginobili reinstated, a little less rest for some weary bones and aching muscles shouldn’t make that much of a difference.