With 28.2 seconds left in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, three-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili stepped to the free-throw line. His San Antonio Spurs were leading the Miami Heat by four, and a couple of made free throws would have likely sealed an NBA title.
Ginobili made just one of two shots, though, setting the stage for Miami’s famous comeback and subsequent championship victory.
When the Spurs head to AmericanAirlines Arena Tuesday night for Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Ginobili will have the opportunity to redeem last year’s embarrassment.
Ginobili scored 21 points in that Game 6 loss but cracked double digits just one other time in the series, leading many to believe that his better days were behind him.
The Argentinian has mostly eviscerated such talk in this season’s playoffs so far, scoring at least 15 points in each of the Spurs’ past four games. If he keeps up the trend in Miami, he can potentially control the action and lead the Spurs to victory.
He appears noticeably slimmer and quicker this season, gliding through the Heat defense with ease. When Ginobili is at his best, he and Tony Parker can make for an exceedingly efficient backcourt duo.
Though not the youngest guards in the league, both Parker and Ginobili are still quick and have the ability to penetrate defenses. In Game 2, LeBron James spent a lot of time guarding Parker, leaving the Spurs to run their offense through Ginobili.
He shot 7-of-15 from the field while dishing out four assists in just 28 minutes. Though the Spurs ended up on the losing side, Ginobili played an integral role in keeping the contest competitive.
If Ginobili keeps driving into the lane and creating opportunities for his teammates, the Heat may be in trouble. He has opened up the Spurs offense so far by weaving in and around the Miami defense. Stopping Miami's offense and James may be nearly impossible, but using Ginobili as a reliable offensive weapon could counteract James' production.
Boris Diaw has had fun playing with Ginobili, per Matt Moore of CBS Sports:
"It's really a bit of everything," Diaw said. "You can't define one quality in a passer like Manu. He's definitely got the vision, because he knows what's going to happen. It's the skill, to be able to make the pass and deliver the ball wherever you see somebody's free.
The series is far from over, but upending the Spurs for the second year in a row may prove more difficult with a seemingly rejuvenated Ginobili in the mix.
And in six trips to the free-throw line so far, he hasn’t missed.
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