Super Manu: Scorched Spurs Need Argentine Hero to Save Their Series

Robert Kleeman@@RobertKleemanSenior Analyst IMay 7, 2010

SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 29:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 29, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Keith Bogans dribbled three times, surveyed a possible path to the hoop and decided passing back to Tony Parker was a better idea.

There was Steve Nash, again, guarding a spot-up shooter. Bogans isn't as consistent or as feared from the corner as Bruce Bowen was.

If the Spurs continue to allow Nash to stand in the corner with Bogans and other supposed shooters, they won't rally to win this series.

Gregg Popovich should start Tony Parker tonight and give him one instruction: attack Steve.

The Suns won the first two games because Alvin Gentry found ways to hide Nash, Channing Frye, Jason Richardson, and even Amar'e Stoudemire on defense.

Tim Duncan scored 29 points in Game Two, but he allowed Frye to walk away from the contest thinking he had become a stockade.

A headline in the Arizona Republic, "Frye takes on Duncan challenge," sums up the Spurs' problem.

"If he's going to take 20 shots, I want him to be sore after the game," Frye said.

This coming from a guy who makes a roll of Charmin look like titanium steel. Should we tell William Hung he can sing, too?

Maybe Duncan cannot be the all-out punisher he once was. If Frye stays on the court long enough in Game Three to take six more three-pointers, and if he makes four of them, the Spurs should just get out brooms and sweep themselves off the AT&T Center floor.

The Suns do play better defense than they used to, and the credit for that goes to Gentry. He barks at his players and hounds them the way Mike D'Antoni never did.

That doesn't suddenly make Phoenix an extension of the San Antonio championship teams.

The Spurs won four titles by bringing out the worst in their opponents. They must do that as the series shifts to Texas tonight.

Not once in the last decade did a squad with two defenseless All-Stars hoist a Larry O' Brien trophy.

Something else must happen tonight, and Popovich cannot make any wisecracks about it.

Two years ago, the Spurs returned home facing an 0-2 deficit and asked Manu Ginobili to redeem them.

That night, Tony Parker and Ginobili combined for 62 points in a 110-99 win over the frenzied New Orleans Hornets.

The two series are different, and that explains why Popovich pledged not to revisit that improbable rally after his team dropped its second consecutive game on Wednesday night.

The Hornets played real defense, and Tyson Chandler's length distressed Duncan. He averaged 15 points through seven games.

Byron Scott had also found ways to keep Parker and Ginobili out of the paint.

In both defeats, the Spurs led at halftime by a hare and then faced a second-half hurricane from which they could not escape.

They drilled three-pointers the way these Suns do but couldn't answer the Hornets when the ball began to hit the back iron.

The Spurs cannot hang their newest 0-2 deficit on Hugo the Hornet or a delay on the tarmac. They know they're in trouble.

Popovich, then, had to find a way to quiet Peja Stojakovic. In that Game Three, he sic'd Bowen on the Serbian shooter.

As one San Antonio sports talk host put it, "Bowen set up a campsite in Stojakovic's pants." Stojakovic did not shoot better than 35 percent for the rest of the series.

Richardson will not be as easy to contain.

The Spurs also have never stopped Stoudemire or Nash, and Phoenix's deeper bench makes that a problem.

Ginobili, though, must be the guy who turns this semi-role reversal on its head.

A 37-year-old Grant Hill pestered Ginobili on Wednesday. You also read that in the paper.

Ginobili dished out 11 dimes but managed to hit just two of his eight attempts. If a veteran who has only recently re-established a reputation as a lock-down defender continues to limit Ginobili, the Spurs are doomed.

The Argentine, when right, cannot be stopped. Two years ago, with the Hornets in similar command, he sliced through Chandler and David West for lay-ups. He kept them at bay with a four-point play against Bonzi Wells.

The Spurs trailed at the half by just two because he swished a fall-away just before the buzzer sounded.

If Duncan anchors the team as its rock, and if Parker acts as the motor, Ginobili supplies its soul.

No one in the organization knew, then, how hurt Ginobili was. He aggravated a groin injury in the first round against the Suns. As the series with the Hornets progressed, the condition of his left ankle worsened.

Or was it his right? It's hard to keep track of these things.

The Spurs somehow defeated the Hornets in a wild Game Seven to become just the 14th team in NBA history to comeback from an 0-2 deficit.

How does a team go seven-and-a-half minutes without a field goal in the fourth quarter and still win by nine?

Ginobili's 26 points provide one answer. The re-appearance of championship-level defense was the other.

A one-legged Ginobili, however, was not good enough against the L.A. Lakers.

Now, with a splint covering his broken nose, he looks similarly flustered. Manu, at his pinnacle, can do better than the 27 points he scored in Game One.

That Manu does whatever it takes to taste victory.

With his knife and fork, he must cut through the Suns defense and will them past a scorching foe in a must-win situation.

Yes, these Suns try on defense. Some of the players do. That doesn't make them the Spurs of old.

It also doesn't help ease the sting of history. No NBA team has ever recovered from an 0-3 hole to triumph.

The Suns can feel it. Ginobili must send them back as he did the Hornets in 2008.

Popovich's game plan on offense tonight won't win any intricacy awards.

Attack Steve.

Let Manu be Manu.

Ginobili answered the call two years ago. If he can't do it again, this series won't be like that one.


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