Though age and the cumulative effect of nagging injuries have conspired to slow down Manu Ginobili of late (he only notches one or two ultra-crafty highlights per game these days), the San Antonio Spurs' shifty veteran star still has enough skill and NBA Finals experience to do some real damage against the Miami Heat.
This will be Ginobili's fourth finals, and with the Spurs' championship window unlikely to stay open much longer, he'll be looking to make a splash in what could easily be his last go-round.
Fortunately, he'll have plenty of past experience on which to draw.
Ginobili has put up a handful of terrific finals efforts in his 11-year career. The Argentine has played in 17 games on the NBA's biggest stage, and although he's never topped 30 points in any finals contest, San Antonio's star sixth man boasts solid averages of 14.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
With Manu, though, it's never just about the numbers. His attacking style and unpredictable decisions put intense pressure on opponents, which counts for a lot in the already pressure-packed atmosphere of the finals.
It only seems right to to give Ginobili's best performance in a losing effort the honorable mention label. After all, when the Spurs get a good showing from their bench scoring savant, they typically come out ahead.
Ginobili has just one double-double in the finals, and this was it: He posted 21 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals in Game 6 against the Detroit Pistons. Despite his stellar line, the Pistons forced Game 7 by notching a 95-86 win.
As you'll see, though, the Spurs might not have even made it to Game 6 without a couple of big nights from Ginobili. And as you'll also see, Manu used to have a mane of flowing locks—of which the hands of time have since robbed him.
It's amazing that the Spurs' last title came nearly six years ago. But in a serendipitous twist of fate, they'll get a shot to grab another one against the same superstar that they defeated in 2007.
When Ginobili pumped in 27 points, grabbed five boards and dished out three assists in a series-clinching Game 4 against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, he helped his team complete a four-game sweep to secure the team's fourth title in less than a decade.
Considering that the Spurs won the game by a single point, it's a good thing he saved up one of his best postseason performances for such a big moment.
Remember, the Cavs roared back to take a lead in the fourth quarter of that game. But thanks to 13 fourth-quarter points from Ginobili—including a huge three and six straight game-clinching foul shots, the Cavs couldn't avoid the broom.
You could make the argument that this game should rank higher on Ginobili's finals resume, but because San Antonio took care of business by a comfortable seven-point margin in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Pistons in 2005, I hope you'll agree that it belongs at No. 4.
That's not to say Ginobili's performance wasn't excellent, though.
This one was close at times, but the Pistons never held a lead in the final period. Ginobili's 11 points in the fourth had plenty to do with that. On the whole, he totaled 23 points, five rebounds and four assists on a sparkling 8-of-13 shooting night. He also hit all five of his foul shots and made both of his three-point attempts.
That's some vintage Ginobili efficiency right there.
It's also notable that Ginobili started this game, a trick Gregg Popovich has sporadically pulled out in key stretches of San Antonio's various title runs. If things don't go well for the Spurs with Danny Green in the first unit, don't be surprised to see Popovich go back to the well one more time.
Ginobili needed just 11 shots to get his 23 points in the Spurs' 11-point win over the Cavs in Game 2 of the 2007 NBA Finals. That kind of scoring efficiency requires a couple of things: great free-throw shooting and solid work from beyond the arc.
Manu displayed both of those qualities in hitting all 11 of his free throws and drilling 4-of-6 from long distance.
He also tossed in six rebounds, two assists and three steals for good measure. Call me a sucker for scorers who get the job done without eating up a ton of field-goal attempts, but this game stands out as a particularly excellent one for Ginobili.
Plus, according to Basketball-Reference.com, this performance yielded a higher game score (total measure of his statistical contributions) than every game other than the one that'll rank No. 1 on this list.
Pretty impressive, right?
Speaking of efficiency, how about Ginobili's showing in Game 1 of the 2005 NBA Finals against the Pistons?
Manu piled up 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, grabbed nine boards and handed out a pair of assists in San Antonio's dominant 15-point win. That game set the tone for what Ginobili would go on to do in this series, his best overall of any of three finals he's been involved in.
The Pistons would bounce back to stretch the series to its limit, but this game helped establish Ginobili as a legitimate star on the league's biggest stage. Notice how there are no games on this list from Manu's first finals foray in 2003? Well, that's because he never topped 12 points in any of those games.
This game marked Ginobili's arrival as a serious finals force.
If Game 1 of the 2005 NBA Finals marked Ginobili's arrival, Game 2 solidified the idea that he was here to stay.
With 27 points, seven assists, three rebounds and three steals, Ginobili had his biggest statistical impact yet. Plus, he accumulated those scoring numbers by hitting 11-of-13 from the foul line and knocking down four of his five attempts from long range.
Thanks to his dominant effort, the Spurs buried the Pistons by a whopping 21 points.
More than any other finals performance of his career, this one firmly established that Ginobili was the secret ingredient to the Spurs' one-two punch built on Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. It showed that San Antonio had the league's most valuable No. 3 option and a bona fide star who could bring it when it mattered most.