Off the Beaten Path, Spurs need Manu Ginobili


Despite the comforts and confines of the AT&T Center and Alamo city Sunday afternoon, home court advantage was merely a myth in the San Antonio Spurs Game 1 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Spurs players had the luxury of sleeping in their beds, following their day-to-day routines, and performing in front of their fans, but the Grizzlies dictated the settings of the game itself, remodeling the floor as they saw fit — often with the crumpled bodies of Tony Parker and George Hill.

Several years ago the Phoenix Suns were compared to a Ferrari or high class European sports car, transforming the NBA into their personal autobahn. The Seven Seconds or Less Suns were high performance to be sure, but also high maintenance to the point of great flaw.

These San Antonio Spurs, despite their (justified) label as a team predicated on offense, are not those Suns, but they are not a tank either.

The Spurs can travel the back roads, roll over a few speed bumps, and speed through some pretty rough terrain. But they are not the kind of team you want to take off-roading seven days a week either. Sunday the Grizzlies dragged them through the mud.

Few are equal to Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich in the game-to-game adjustment grind that is the NBA Playoffs and if the Spurs are to win Game 2 Popovich will have to find a way to clean things up. This San Antonio team is talented to be sure, more talented than Grizzlies in the present. But the only thing elite about the Spurs is their execution.

In Memphis the 47 free throws the Spurs earned, and make no mistake they did earn them, are viewed as an insult and malady to be fixed. In hindsight the symphony of referees’ whistles may have been a bit of strategic, if unintended, brilliance.

Memphis is not quite a tank, even if that is what they did to get here. There is some speed in their engine and while they may pursue the open road recklessly, the freedom of transition offense from forced turnovers is the path they travel best.

An offensive juggernaut they are not, especially in the half court. There are tools there to be sure in their large frontline of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, but a lack of shooting and perimeter creativity without Rudy Gay places a premium on offensive rebounds; something the Spurs will be able to negate to a certain extent.

In creating an ugly game with the barrage of fouls, the Grizzlies may have knowingly put themselves at a disadvantage, but they did so to drag the Spurs down to their level so to speak. They blew up the road knowing all too well the Spurs were navigating without their best off-road driver.

In Duncan’s decline Manu Ginobili is the Spurs best ugly game player. One could not help but look at the 47 free throw attempts and wonder how many more would have been tacked on with Ginobili in the game?

As has been written here before, Ginobili is the Spurs player who legitimizes the system by being the sole player to operate outside of it. Manu is the one player on this Spurs team that would be able to not only make sense of the muck the Grizzlies turned Game 1 into, but do so while keeping a semblance of the Spurs system and execution intact.

Few thrive on broken plays as much as Ginobili, and no one in the Spurs playoff rotation is quite as adept at getting opposing big men into foul trouble at this point in their careers. Both will be important in getting a three-point game that has worked to the Spurs advantage all season back on track.

The Spurs accomplished many of the little battles they sought to win, the sort of battles that eventually win the war. Popovich has rightly suggested the general game plan would remain the same with undoubtedly greater attention to detail with a few minor tweaks.

But should the Grizzlies choose to take this series off-road again, the biggest adjustment Popovich and the Spurs could make would be handing the keys to Manu Ginobili.

  • SAJKinBigD

    Yes! Let’s give the keys to our MANU Andretti and run the little bears outta the gym!

  • Hobson13

    Once we get Manu back, make open/uncontested shots, and play a bigger lineup (Splitter) our problems with the Grizz should be largely solved. Randolph will get his, but we can overcome even a 30/15 performance by him if we limit his support players. Sometimes you need a good arse whooping to wake up and step up and this is what the Spurs got on Sunday. In all honesty, I expect the Spurs to come out hungry and the Grizz to be content with a split in SA. This should lead to a 10-15pt win for the Spurs followed by a hotly contested game 3 in Memphis.

  • Junierizzle

    I’m not saying the SPURS win easily if Manu was playing (well maybe they do with all those free throws) but they definitely win Game 1. Despite the Grizz’s size TP still got to the rim, he just couldn’t finish. I counted at least 4 lay-ups that rolled in and out. If TP got to the cup then so could have MANU.

    Again, I’m not saying the SPURS win easily with MAnu. But we all saw how they did against Dallas two years ago when Manu was out completely.

  • SAJKinBigD

    I agree completely. I’d love to see Splitter get some minutes, but that’s been a constant whenever he’s healthy for me. I do expect a 10+ point win tomorrow night and I expect game 3 to be a lot like game 1, except the outcome: Spurs Win! Barring injury (fingers crossed, etc), I expect to finish this series out in no more than 6 games. It CANNOT go 7. We just cannot afford to expend so much energy in the first round.

  • Hobson13

    Agreed. No way we can afford to stretch this out to 7 games. We should be shooting for 5 games, but expecting 6. I will say that our next opponent whether it be Denver or OKC will have played a LONG and exhausting 7 game series. That might help a bit even though both clubs are younger than the Spurs. The Nuggs/OKC series is, IMO, one of the more fun 1st round matchups I’ve seen in several years.

  • SAJKinBigD

    Hopefully a long and exhausting 7 games for them added to a quick 5-game series for us will even things out a bit in our favor! 😀
    As to the Den/OKC series – I’ll agree, though if the depleted Hornets make that into a series, I’ll switch my vote! I told folks not to underestimate them and quit bashing them – they’ve been hearing for a long time that they can’t do anything; they’ve got pride, you know? And it’s not like It’s PRIDE F’in with ’em, so to speak. 😉

  • Marcus Dovalina

    Anyone know who the referees are tomorrow? If it’s any form of Crawford or Bill Kennedy let’s bag and tag this 0-2 start and move on to Memphis.

  • SAJKinBigD

    Crawford’s in Dallas tonight… They’re quaking in their boots that they’re gonna go to Port-land 1-1! 😀

  • Lvmainman

    He’s talking about Joey Crawford – the closest referee to the Fisher landed on Barry not called a foul NBA apologized for and suspended for the playoffs trying to fight Tim Duncan, not the Danny Crawford in tonight’s Mavs game. If Joey Crawford refs tomorrow, Spurs are toast.

  • SAJKinBigD

    I was about to respond to my response on just that. Sorry for my mix-up. Joey haunts us and Danny haunts the Mavs… Let’s hope we don’t get the other, but we’ll find out in about 18 and a half hours who our Refs are…

  • SAJKinBigD

    I was about to respond to my response on just that. Sorry for my mix-up. Joey haunts us and Danny haunts the Mavs… Let’s hope we don’t get the other, but we’ll find out in about 18 and a half hours who our Refs are…

  • Humberto

    Great read Jesse.

    By the way I’m pretty sure Matt Moore still thinks you hate Marc Gasol!

  • Marcus Dovalina

    I meant both Crawfords. They are both unfair referees. I also will never forget that Barry/Fisher no call by Joey Crawford.

  • Ben

    We needed him at the end of game 1. Tony missed an elbow jumper, then Hill missed a corner 3. Both shots were taken with a 2 point Spurs lead.. I think Manu would have driven in the lane and drawn a foul on at least one of those possessions, which would have iced the game for us.

  • Senorglory

    return of Manu + McD and TP actually hitting some of their shots = Spurs in 5.

  • Senorglory

    I hear Rick Adleman is available.

  • Senorglory

    just saying.

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  • Titletown99030507d

    How about 7 games.