Manu Ginobili

The San Antonio Spurs seemed to be cruising towards a comfortable victory before a late surge from the Memphis Grizzlies, forcing overtime. However, despite the late-game heroics from Mike Conley and the very surprising James Johnson, Manu Ginobili pulled off a game winning layup.

Tim Duncan was there for most of the way, finishing with 24 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks, having to handle defending the paint without Tiago Splitter, which makes a huge difference. Luckily for him, this was the one-headed monster version of the Grizzlies, who are now missing both Marc Gasol and Tony Allen. Zach Randolph, not for the first time, struggled against Duncan, scoring 17 points on only 7-of-18 from the field.

The Spurs held a 96-84 lead with only 1:59 remaining in the game before the Grizzlies scored 12 consecutive points, including a Mike Conley shot to tie the game at 96 and sent it to overtime. After Manu Ginobili hit a layup with 1.8 seconds left to put the Spurs 110-108 up in overtime, Mike Conley did get a shot with a long three to tie the game, but lightning didn’t strike twice for the point guard, who scored a game-high 30 points.

The key word coming out of every Spurs mouth was ‘mentality’. How the Spurs didn’t let the late fourth quarter events get to them, picking themselves up against the Grizzlies and coming away with the overtime win. That should be especially surprising considering where Manu Ginobili was seven months ago.

Ginobili used to be one of the more trusted players in crunch time, but his performances in Games 6 and 7 of the NBA finals, which mostly included making foolish turnovers, robbed him of that reputations for those who like to forget in favor of most recent events. Many thought that retirement was coming for the Argentine, but stayed on for two more seasons, and without any injuries running and limiting his regular season, he’s playing some excellent basketball.

Tim Duncan, Zach Randolph

Ginobili is averaging 12.5 points per game (9 against the Griz on only 25% from the field) and his shooting is back to normal numbers, hitting 46.6% of his field goal attempts. He’s not the player he was four or five years ago, which was at an All-Star level, but for anyone who counted him out after his poor performance late in the NBA finals, this season is proof that players that are great have the mental ability to put failures behind them in order to give it another go.

The Spurs have now improved to 14-3 this season on the road, best in the NBA. As the season moves along, they’re learning more and more about this team and who is going to be ready for battle in the playoffs. Having a tough road win without Tony Parker having a big game (only 10 points) is a good thing to know, as Marco Belinelli added 19 points while Kawhi Lenoard scored 17.

This is the final ‘last chance’ year… not sure. We’ve heard it for the last six years that the Spurs have no tomorrow, only now. They keep coming back for more, sometimes falling way shot of the mark, but making the Western Conference finals (and further) over the last two years, showing that the youth movement around the aging big three is on the right path.

Images: Source