Manu Ginobili was key once again in the Spurs' latest victory, a 100-99 win over Minnesota.
Not only did Ginobili score 44 points, hit seven three-pointers, and hit 11 of 12 from the line—but most importantly, he hit the game winning shot with six seconds left to play.
Ginobili has also scored 46 and 34 in recent victories over Cleveland and Toronto.
If the recently re-tooled Spurs ope to overtake New Orleans for first place in their division and put themselves in the best possible position for the playoffs, Ginobili must keep up this high level of play for the rest of the year.
Tim Duncan has had one of his more consistent campaigns in recent memory, but the big man can not control as many aspects of the game as the versatile Ginobili can. With Tony Parker having been in and out of the lineup and clearly having some kind of aversion to his lane-driving pursuits of the last couple of seasons, Ginobili must become the force he was in the 2004 Olympics for Argentina and for the 2005 version of the championship Spurs.
Ginobili is currently averaging higher than his career NBA standards in points, assists, blocks, steals, rebounds, free thrown percentage, and three point percentage. With the recent departure of Brent Barry, Ginobili's ability from beyond the arc will become even more crucial for San Antonio. If he can become a more reliable free-throw shooter, that will also create conundrums for opposing defenses.
Another important factor for the Spurs will be how newly-acquired F/C Kurt Thomas complements Tim Duncan. At this point in his career, hungry for a championship ring, Thomas should not mind being the fourth or fifth option on the floor at any given time and hopefully will focus his energy on defense and rebounding.
The health of Tony Parker still looms large for San Antonio. Jacques Vaughn and Damon Stoudamire have made contributions, but neither on a consistent basis. The Spurs have had the best luck with having Ginobili run the show and have him flanked by Michael Finley at the other guard spot. This may be a temporary solution, but ultimately a healthy Parker is something the Spurs need.