Manu Ginobili has always had a flare for the dramatic.
He has made a career out of reaching into his endless bag of tricks at the most crucial of moments, willing his team to victory when the outcome was in doubt.
While he has not fared as well in his battle with father time as his longtime teammate Tim Duncan has, he proved that the bag isn’t quite empty just yet in the San Antonio Spurs’ 114-104 victory over the Miami Heat Sunday night.
All he needed was a little extra motivation, motivation that he found by looking within himself. Speaking after the game, via J.A. Adande of ESPN.com, Ginobili revealed a quick glimpse into the mind of a tortured basketball phenom:
"I was angry, I was disappointed," Ginobili said. "We are playing in the NBA Finals, we were 2-2 and I felt I still wasn't really helping the team that much. And that was the frustrating part."
As un-Spurslike as this might sound, Ginobili realized that in order to help the team succeed, he needed to help himself even more. Controlled selfishness keyed the Spurs to victory.
Not selfishness in the ball hog sense, but selfishness in that he finally made himself the focal point of the offense.
Credit Gregg Popovich for realizing this, once again proving that he stands alone at the pinnacle of the coaching pecking order.
He understood that Ginobili needed a spark, a way to brush aside his poor play in the early parts of the series and reemerge as an elite force. A move to the starting rotation appears to be just the remedy, allowing him to attack from the get-go and exert his will from the beginning.
Rather than needing to find a way to enter the flow of a game already in progress, Ginobili was able to set his own tone, attacking early on and keeping his foot on the gas pedal throughout.
“I needed it,” he said.
That is true, but the Spurs needed it even more. The prospect of going into Miami down 3-2 was not a pretty one, and while they were playing well, Miami was too. They needed one last push, a spark that hadn’t quite caught fire yet in this series. They needed Ginobili to play his best game in years.
And, just like Popovich drew it up, of course, that’s exactly what he did, scoring 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting while also playing the Santa Clause role to a tee, dishing out 10 assists to his ever-ready teammates.
A deviation from the Spurs’ norm resulted in a very common Spurs’ win. On a night where Dwyane Wade continued his playoff renaissance, Ginobili stood toe-to-toe with him, two Hall of Famers exchanging blows, one ultimately getting enough from his teammates to capitalize on a wonderful performance.
Win or lose, Ginobili needed to ensure that his fingerprints could at least be found on it.
The aging star needed one last hurrah, a blast from the past to relieve his troubled mind. At the end of the day, maybe it wasn’t so un-Spurslike after all. After all, finding any way possible to help the team win has always been what Ginobili does best.
Just add “24-point, 10-assist monster performance” to his never-ending list of achievements, a list that he apparently is not quite done writing just yet.