There’s more than just the question of whether the Manu Ginobili of more than 80% of this series will show up. It’s about whether Gregg Popovich thinks he has it in him to put it behind in game 7 of the 2013 NBA finals, and even more importantly, is Popovich willing to take him off the court when he sees it’s damaging the San Antonio Spurs.
Ginobili reverted to his old ways in game 6, playing like someone who clearly isn’t up for this kind of intensity and level. He turned the ball over eight times, finishing with only 2-of-5 from the field in 35 minutes. He had the worst +/- of any player on the floor from both teams, with the Spurs losing by 21 during his time spent playing.
Bad decision after bad decision, that’s been Ginobili’s story in this series, except for game 5, when once again, Danny Green was left open to bring down three-point hell on the Miami Heat, while Ginobili enjoyed very favorable matchups, effectively putting Norris Cole out of the series after scoring on his head again and again.
Popovich had faith in him once, ignoring the critics and putting him in the starting lineup for game 5, and then again, in a move that backfired on him, in game 6. But that was not the only mistake Popovich made, putting Tim Duncan on the bench during the end of regulation, leading to the two offensive rebounds that got Miami their two chances to tie the game, send it into overtime and eventually win it.
Duncan wasn’t hitting anything past the third quarter, and did need some time on the bench. Scoring 25 points in one half took a lot, too much, out of him, and he couldn’t sustain that level of offense and defense for the 44 minutes he ended up playing. When people talked about fatigue getting to the Spurs, it was that.
It was Tony Parker having to sit long minutes on the bench because of his cramping leg. And he still played 43 minutes. While Kawhi Leonard has no problem having these kind of games, three of them, in the space of five days, the rest of the group, including Danny Green, who isn’t as durable as Leonard is, need time to lick their wounds, both on the inside and outside.
The biggest question since game 6 ended is whether or not it damaged the Spurs to a point from which they can’t come back from. Read any writer who isn’t affiliated with the Spurs during this series – after every Miami win, and especially after game 4, the notion was that the Spurs are done, and can’t possibly pick themselves up from the beating they just got.
But that’s underestimating a great team, a championship caliber team. It’s underestimating an all-time great head coach, who is humble enough, probably, to learn from his own mistakes. The Spurs are down to the bottom of the tank from them, as like everyone has said leading up to game 7 – there are no more tricks to pull or secrets to reveal. From here, it’ll be about execution, and finding that extra something to carry them through.
In terms of how their offense has been running, the Spurs continue to rely on Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Danny Green won’t be left open to do as he wishes from beyond the arc again, and Tim Duncan, as great as he might be offensively for short periods of time, won’t have the knees and legs to carry the offense in the final minutes of a close game. It’s going to be up to, once again, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
It might sound boring, but it’s true. They create the chances and good looks for everyone else. If they pull off another combined night like they did in game 6, the Spurs’ chances of rebounding once again from a playoff loss (winning after every loss in this postseason) are slim to none.