The soon-to-be 36-year-old Manu Ginobili’s 2013 NBA Finals, and really his entire playoffs, hadn’t gone as planned. The two-time NBA All-Star has a playoff stat line of 11.3 points on 39.2 percent shooting from the field.
But the wily veteran with the unique playing style broke through in a pivotal Game 5 to put up 24 points on eight of 14 shooting to go along with 10 assists. His best game of the playoffs came at the perfect time, and Twitter took notice.
MANU LIVES— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) June 17, 2013
This 2013 Finals was billed as big three vs. big three; the superstar big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh against the perpetually under-the-radar big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
But for most of the series, the Spurs could only muster a big two. Ginobili was nowhere to be found, scoring a grand total of 30 points on 34.5 percent shooting in games one through four.
It didn’t help matters that Ginobili told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that “My body is no the issue here. If I’m not playing good, it’s just because I’m not playing good, not because my body is betraying me.”
That comment coupled with his play drew talks of Ginobili needing to retire. Speculation that he was washed up, couldn’t play anymore.
If Ginobili is on, he gives the Spurs another much needed playmaker. He has the best vision on the team, as evidenced by crazy passes like the one below.
The Spurs were not going to beat the Heat on the backs of role players like Gary Neal and Danny Green. Green has hit exactly six shots inside the three-point line, and Neal has cooled off after his scorching Game 3.
When Ginobili is playing well, the Spurs don’t have to rely as heavily on the likes of Green and Neal. They can settle back into their roles as shooters and bomb away instead of feeling pressure to do more.
Additionally, Ginobili is no easy defensive assignment. He has an nice shot, an array of off-balance mid-range shots, and some unusual twisting floaters and finishes at the rim.
But as simple as it may sound, these only work when Ginobili is hitting shots. Now that he has found his rhythm, the Heat have to adjust to him. Meaning they have to focus more of their defensive energy on him and away from Parker, Duncan, Green, and the rest of the Spurs shooters. Ginobili playing well opens up the floor for the rest of the team.
For the Spurs to bring it home, they need Ginobili. He found his touch in Game 5, which means the band is back together for Game 6. Watch out South Beach.
All stats, unless otherwise noted, came from espn.com's NBA Finals page