58 Minutes of Hell and 44 seconds of Manu

by

SAN ANTONIO — Manu Ginobili has made a career out of being the reason for your gray hair. But Gregg Popovich — whose hair can hardly get any whiter — was beyond justifying the hate with love in the relationship between the player and coach. He was ready to ship him out of town.

In an epic sequence that was a microcosm of his Hall-of-Fame career, Ginobili jacked up a significantly less-than-ideal 3-point attempt that clanged off the rim with 44 ticks left and the Spurs up three, opening the door and allowing the Warriors to reel off four lead-changing points in the span of about 40 seconds. But just as Manu (16 points, 11 assists) was about to descend into depths of unenviable notoriety, he reminded his detractors of the type of magic spells he’s capable of casting.

Again.

Ginobili — an intended decoy in a last-ditch effort to rescue one of the wildest games in NBA history — found himself inexplicably wide open, and just as he’s done so many times before, calmly sank a huge shot to secure what would eventually become a 129-127 double-overtime victory and a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals.

“I went from trading him on the spot to wanting to cook him breakfast tomorrow,” Pop said at the podium. “That’s the truth.”

It’s a sentiment shared by anyone who was wearing black and silver colors on Monday night. As low as Manu’s lows can be, his highs are explosive. And it took a special type of explosiveness to overcome the freak show that was Stephen Curry’s third-quarter performance. From a ballistic assault that seemed to have no end in sight, to gut-wrenching and show-stopping Manu moments seconds apart, it’s the extremes that turn games into classics like the one we just witnessed. And fittingly enough, it was Ginobili who left his indelible mark on the final score. Just like the marks he continues to leave on his coach.

“(Pop) has faces that mean a lot, and I already knew when I shot that one from the top of the key — I kind of turned from the side of my eye and saw his body language,” Ginobili said. “He was right. It was a terrible shot in a key moment, so it really helped me that I made that last shot because it would’ve been a tough night.”

At that point in a double-overtime game that had already featured an almost miraculous comeback, both teams were trying for the knockout punch. The one that would slam the proverbial nail in a coffin that was nearly impossible to close for good.

“I know I took a really bad shot. I had no chance whatsoever to make it to the basket, to penetrate,” Manu said. “I was very tired and [Jarrett] Jack gave me a couple of feet.

“I thought I could make it.”

He didn’t. But it didn’t matter. It’s because of that mentality that made his last shot possible, and his defense on Jack on the game’s final play punctuated the end of one of the craziest stories in Spurs history. It was a bad overall game for Manu, whose 16 points came on 5-for-20 shooting. But that’s all forgotten now.

“The last play wasn’t for me, they just left me open,” Ginobili said. “When I caught it, I saw [Kent] Bazemore flying, so I just gave it a lot of air and it went in.”

But thousands of Spurs fans who were once in the arena on Monday night didn’t get to see it fly. The AT&T Center went from a packed house to start the evening to something that resembled a scene from the Spurs-Pistons game in early March by late fourth quarter. It’s a shame, because what transpired last night beat the hell out of beating traffic.

The Spurs may have just taken the Warriors’ best shot and survived it. Even with Curry’s 44 points and 11 assists, even facing a 1 in 200 chance of winning, down 16 with four minutes remaining, San Antonio took about 45 minutes to overcome an eight-day layoff and snatch away what seemed to rightfully belong to the Warriors.

Just like the droves of ticket-holders that filled the exits in last night’s fourth quarter, the Warriors didn’t see Manu’s shot coming. And based on his career accomplishments, it’s difficult to be sure of why.

  • Nima K.

    Lets hope Pop makes some serious adjustments. We won’t always be this lucky. The Spurs got owned tonight by Thompson’s pestering defense on Parker, Bogut’s presence on the boards and persistent rebounding, and Curry’s magic. (I mean, dude picks up the ball from the ground and scores. W-T-F). Manu’s magic in the end was stronger, but I’m not sure his spells will work in the Oracle Arena. We barely survived a home game.

  • neverthehero

    I skipped the bar otw home from work and thought the game was over. Looked at the score, and it went to OT, turned on the radio (nba’s sprint app) and wow such an exciting game to listen to on the radio, nerve-wracking. After the missed Manu 3, I turned it off, then was on pins with one second left, about .5 seconds more than Curry needs to get off a 3.

  • neverthehero

    Barely surviving with out our 2nd best big guy (who should be back next game) and our best big guy with horrible flu and a weeks rest, I think in this case let’s be grateful and realize that we can play better. I sadly have to agree about Parker, he can’t hope for Thompson to foul out of every game.

  • CIAPop

    It’s a bit annoying how all the stories focus on Manu who went Westbrook or whatever you want to call it when the game was basically won already and almost lost it doing so.

    The true heroes were Boris and Kawhi who were spectacular.

  • Bankshot_21

    And Danny “Icy Hot” Green.

  • NYC

    Again, I say those fans who abandoned their post to beat traffic–BEAT TRAFFIC–need to be rounded up and shot. Un. F-ing. Believable. Do you know what I would give to have been at the AT&T Center last night?

    This post was made in New York City.
    NEW YORK CITY!?!?

  • Len

    Boris played an amazing, amazing game. Green was also surprisingly spectacular.

  • NYC

    Of course the story is Manu. He almost lost the game, but then won it. Duh.

  • NYC

    I disagree. I think this was what will prove to be the deciding game. Spurs in 5.

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  • Titletown99030507d

    Stick Baynes on Bogut to harass him for 6 fouls. Double up on Curry and take your chances.

  • Len

    No way Pop sends doubles at Curry.

    Let me put it this way. If Pop wouldn’t send doubles at Dirk in his prime, do you really think he’s going to do it for an inexperienced Curry?

    Make Curry work for everything and try to limit what the supporting cast does. Rotate help to Curry after he beats his man off the dribble of course. But that’s very different from double teaming when he gets the ball.

  • Tyler

    Agree with Len – SA will live with Curry going 1 on 1. Limit everyone else. With their shooters, you simply can’t give up open 3′s after a double that far away from the hoop.

    How many points did Curry score in which no other GS player touched the ball? 20? That’s not the recipe for a great offense in the long run. That type of isolation ball plays directly into the Spurs’ hands. And what happens if Curry scores 28 instead of 40+? Spurs win fairly easily (assuming they play better than the first 3-1/2 qtrs in game 1 – a fairly certain assumption).

    Simply put – GS can’t win 4 games with the bulk of their offense being Curry isolations.

  • junierizzle

    Adjustments will be made ofcourse but it doesn’t matter what GSW did in this game, all that matters is they are down 0-1. You don’t own anyone until you beat them. They lost exactly how a young team would.

  • junierizzle

    Ginobili!!!!!! The thing I loved most about this game was my boy Danny Green finally showed up. He’s confident and this ain’t last year.

  • junierizzle

    I couldn’t agree more.

  • growndhawgg

    GREEEEEEEEEEN

  • idahospur

    Curry might just be one of those guys that no matter what he’s putting up big numbers against the Spurs. We need to harass him all game, throw different defenders on him, and make him work for shots. But don’t be surprised when he still gets 30. I would expect him to still be tired at the beginning of Game 2 as the poor scheduling of the first 3 games will hurt.

    The focus may need to be on stopping other Warriors from scoring, especially Mr. Jack. When Curry stopped shooting in the 4th, no one was able to step in a keep the boat rowing. Send Blair and Baynes to get fouls called on Bogut and Thompson.

  • Allan

    goddamnit, someone break stephen curry’s ankle. it’s made of glass anyway.
    I was happy that the bulls beaten the heat as my hope of not meeting them in the finals finally seems like a possibility, but with curry shooting this way, i want him out.

  • este

    When I was a kid my Old Man would never leave early from any game regardless of the score ” We paid for these damn seats and we’re going to use them…”

    Don’t these folks no this is the NBA and this is where amazing happens! The fans that stayed true made enough noise to make up for those who bailed anyway.

  • assistman

    The dirty secret about the (“it’s a point guard league”) NBA, is that in the NBA playoffs PG’s can be rendered ineffective with a big defender a la Bruce Bowen. Curry’s spectacular shooting touch makes that difficult, but KL gets credit in this game. A big guard to run point is what you need, Magic, MJ, Bryant, Ginobili, Wade, LBJ, to name a few. It’s what has always made me nervous about this being the era of “Tony Parker’s team.” Hope I’m wrong.

  • assistman

    You gotta admit, on a night when Curry gets 44, Manu’s high-arcing last shot was as pretty as they come.

  • SpursFanNYC

    Can you show a little bit of class?
    1) It is extremely unsportsmanlike to wish injury on an opposing player
    2) This is especially wrong considering the various injuries the Spurs have had to deal with in the past
    3) We are Spurs fans, we support an NBA franchise full of players that are professionals. We can beat them without playing dirty.

  • SJ S

    I thought the same thing…”what about the people that left?” Imagine being in their shoes & making that ill-advised decision. Great story though, good pointers! well written Matthew Tynan

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  • Titletown99030507d

    Yeah but what happens if he score 40+? Whatever.

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