Manu Ginobili is back… in a big way… to help propel the San Antonio Spurs to victory.
The 35-year-old Argentinian professional basketball player broke out of a recent slump with a whopping 24 points and 10 assists in his first start of the season, leading the Spurs past the Miami Heat 114-104 to take a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals.
Ginobili had his highest-scoring game of the season as the Spurs became the first team to shoot 60 percent in a finals game in four years.
“He’s such a huge part of what we do and how far we’ve come. You can see it tonight in how we played and the results of the game,” said teammate Tim Duncan, who added 17 points and 12 rebounds to the team’s tally. “We’re always confident in him. … We know he has it in him. We hope he can bring it forward for one more win.”
The stage was set from the get-go when Ginobili ran out with Duncan, Tony Parker and the rest of the Spurs’ starters.
One more victory and the Spurs’ Big Three, not Miami’s, will be the team that takes home the championship trophy.
And a big reason was the exceptional play by Ginobili, following what had been a miserable series for the former Sixth Man of the Year.
“I was angry, 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,” Ginobili said. “And that was the frustrating part.”
Ginobili had been averaging just 7.5 points on 34.5 percent shooting in the series, making only three of his 16 3-point attempts. But Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich made the Finals’ second lineup change in two games, after the Heat inserted Mike Miller to start Game 4.
Ginobili didn’t make a start this season and certainly hadn’t been playing like someone who belonged with the first five. But in the Spurs’ biggest game of the season, they remained confident he would break out, and they were right.
“I knew that I was not scoring much and I felt it in the air. But I tried not to care about it. I know I’m critical enough of myself to be worrying about what other people say,” Ginobili said.
It was the first time he scored 24 or more points since having 34 on June 4, 2012, against Oklahoma City, according to STATS.
Ginobili and his Spurs teammates now need only one win to clinch San Antonio’s fifth NBA championship.