San Antonio Spurs 100, Denver Nuggets 99: Manu finishes what Duncan, Green start
Before we get started, I thought I’d introduce myself as the newest member of the 48 Minutes of Hell crew. My name is Matthew Tynan and I’ve hopped aboard the TrueHoop Network train after writing solely for SB Nation and Pounding the Rock. I’m here because I like basketball, so let’s talk about it, shall we? Because that’s also what you’re here for, anyway.
SAN ANTONIO — It was exam No. 1 in a week of hell for the Spurs, and by the skin of their teeth they managed a passing grade.
San Antonio stifled an athletic Nuggets attack on the final play of the game, forcing Andre Miller into a difficult, lefty runner that he failed to convert as the Spurs (54-17) slipped out of the AT&T Center with a 100-99 win.
And the surprises ahead will catch you off guard if you think the Manu Ginobili narrative has hit its peak. If there’s one thing he’s taught us over the years, unless he’s off the court for good, think twice before you call him done.
The Spurs’ slumping sixth man drained a 3-pointer with 1:26 remaining off a pass from Kawhi Leonard, and after yet another sub-par shooting game he reminded us all why he’s on the floor during the crucial moments.
“I did it,” Manu joked after the game. “We didn’t have many options. Kawhi got his way to the rim and he threw it to me — I don’t remember exactly how much time (was) left on the clock but I knew it was less than six seconds.
“So I just shot it, and it went in.”
It was the first 3 he’d hit all night, a scenario we’ve seen recently. During overtime of San Antonio’s win over the Utah Jazz on Friday, Manu’s first 3-pointer of the night put the Spurs up for good in Tony Parker’s return from injury. Fast-forward to tonight, it’s Ginobili once again.
For as badly as he’s been shooting it — 30.6 percent over his last eight games prior to tonight — it’s the confidence he still has taking the big-moment shots that makes him a must-have presence on the court in clutch situations. And it’s not just on the offensive end.
Manu drew the late assignment of defending Danilo Gallinari on the game’s final play, a set that was designed to get Gallo in a high pick and roll with JaVale
McDunkerton McGee. Danilo received the ball off the pin-down from Wilson Chandler, but Ginobili’s defense into the McGee screen during the ensuing action forced Gallo to go wide and gave Tiago Splitter an opportunity to get in front of him, cutting off both his angles as a ball-handler and a passer.
It’s the little things Manu is doing, even when his shot isn’t falling until it matters most. And for a Spurs team with this kind of stretch in front of it, it’s a huge win.
“(It’s) Important because we are facing one of the hottest teams in the league. Because they are good, atheltic … they play hard,” Ginobili said. “Regardless of the standings right now, it’s important for us to play these type of teams, having to grind it and hustle and run back. I think these type of teams make us better.”
And that’s good, because they’ll need to be better, if only to make things easier on their coach’s heart. Without Manu’s late go-ahead shot, the Spurs perhaps don’t pull this one out. But if it weren’t for Danny Green and Tim Duncan, San Antonio would’ve never made it to that position in the first place.
Green dropped six first-half 3-pointers, tying a franchise record for 3s in a half, and Tim Duncan went off for 23 points, 14 boards and five blocks in a matchup of contrasting styles with the freakishly athletic McGee. While it was Green’s 3s that kept the Spurs in the game after Denver’s 19-4 run in the second quarter, Duncan’s numbers just keep slipping by without a ton of notice.
It was the fifth time this season Timmy has put up at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
No other player in the NBA has more than one stat line of the sort this year.
As Manu continues to search for his rhythm, Duncan and Green found theirs a while back. And as long as the Spurs continue to get big performances from outside their Big 3 while Parker progresses toward the physical state that took him to Houston for the All-Star Game, it’ll only be a matter of time before this group breaks out of its relative scoring slump.
But as for exam week, the Spurs got off to a good start. Parker had only two games to warm up prior to tonight, so last-second preparation was the only available option. But Pop’s used to that.
“I was like most college kids — I put it off until I definitely had to do it,” he said. “Then I’d stay up all night.”
Test No. 2 comes to town on Friday.