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.

  • assistman

    Unfortunately, Manu followed that 3 by fouling the shooter (Danilo G) and giving back two points. It also looks like the refs bailed Manu out on our last attempt, giving DEN a shorter final possession after Timmy failed to hit the clutch basket (again) tonight. If we don’t play much better in the rematch, we’ll lose that one. We’re lucky Ty was gimpy and their starters were off tonight. And at least these final exams are mostly at home! Obviously the road game I want to grab is versus OKC. If we win that game and can finish 9-2 we’ll get the number 2 seed overall regardless of how they finish their season.

    I’m feeling pretty good about Tim, Tony, Tiago & KL but we need more from our bench, especially MG & Jax (I’m not expecting much from Boris and almost nothing from whoever our 9th man will be).

  • junierizzle

    You have to give the Spurs more credit. Denver wasn’t off at all. That’s how they play. Different guys step up every night for them. It was Chandlers night tonight.

  • junierizzle

    It was a good win. If Green can shoot like that in the playoffs I like our chances. Last year he just didn’t show up. I really like TP’ s D especially on last shot opportunities on other guards.

  • Dennis Myers

    FIRE POP !!!
    Is ittime yet to complain about how bad the Spurs are under Pop? Let me start the ball rolling.

  • Andrew A. McNeill


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  • Sizzle

    you’re funny

  • Reads2ManyIdiot’sPosts

    Yeah, Dantoni might be available, and maybe we can ship Tim, Kawhi, and Danny to Lakers for Dwight and a couple of Kobe’s jocks.

  • Christopher Sauer

    0-10 from 3 point land – no, they weren’t off at all. It’s a little scary that we shot 67% in threes, they shot 0%, and we still only won by one point. This is a scary team heading into the playoffs. They are the most athletic team I’ve seen in years.

  • Christopher Sauer

    I’m glad you see the little things Manu’s doing, because I’m seeing the big things, like turning the ball over waaaay to much, not getting past guys off the dribble, and getting burned on defense. He is worrying me a little bit. So is Ton, actually. 5 turnovers. He’s getting stripped during drives waaaaaay too easily. In fact, I thought the refs bailed him out a couple times. The best part was George Karl’s reaction to every marginal call. I don’t think he’s met a call yet he didn’t like to whine about.

  • Sir Timothy

    Denver is the 3rd best team in the league behind Miami and the Spurs. OKC beats up on teams below 500 and Denver has the best record against the top teams in the West. I fully expect Denver to make the Western Conference Finals.

    If the standings can work out so that OKC plays Houston (7th seed) Denver (3rd seed) then the Spurs (with Spurs having homecourt) then Miami (with Miami having home court) OKC has about a 2% chance of winning. Those four teams are all the toughest ones for OKC. Much tougher than Memphis, Clippers, Warriors, Dallas, Utah ,LAL, or anyone else in the East.

    On the other hand the Spurs should have an easier time against the 8th seed and then either the Clippers or slumping Grizzlies. And of course the Spurs match up well against the Heat. Looking forward to a dominating performance over the Clippers and then the Heat game on Sunday.

  • Andrew G

    New writer = new trolls that follow along.

  • Andrew G

    I don’t think he was bailed out on that out of bounds ball at the end. Besides not calling the contact on his way to the basket, I don’t think there was enough evidence to overturn the decision already made (granted, this is based on the videos shown to the local audience), so they let it stand.

    Yea, I don’t really get what’s going on with our bench rotation. Why CoJo at this point in the season? Was he in strictly for defensive purposes or is he going to actually see minutes come playoff time? I want to see Patty do more than wave towels. #LetHimShoot

  • Andrew G

    I REALLY hope the 2-3 seeds hold so that Denver plays OKC in the second round. Denver seems to have OKC’s number, and wouldn’t mind seeing them slug it out over a 7 game stretch, only to get wrecked by our well rested squad in the WCF. In previous seasons Pop dismisses seeding, stating he just wants to see us playing the right way heading into the playoffs. I’m not buyin it this year.

  • graham

    Well at least TitleTown has company now on that lonely ‘Pop sucks’ bandwagon

  • Graham

    Mills and Neal have overlapping skillsets, and Pop trusts Neal mo re. (He’s got the playoff bonafides). CoJo’s proven to be a better all around PG if pop wants a ballhandler instead of a gunner at the 1 when Parker is on the bench.

  • junierizzle

    They are a paint scoring team. They were getting lay ups and dunks. That’s why it was close, they are not a three point shooting team. They are one of the top teams in the league, did you really expect to win by 15?

  • assistman

    Lawson is usually way more reliable than that, and if we don’t play better in the rematch we lose. The one seed hangs in the balance, and I don’t think we are at our best (I’m counting on improvement anytime now).

    I don’t think we need the top western seed though it would surely help keep TD fresh for Miami (McGee & Asik make him work), what I’d really love is to somehow move ahead of Miami which could make a huge difference (the 2-3-2 format is brutal for the underdog).

  • Christopher Sauer

    Nope, knew it would be close. Your “Denver wasn’t off at all” statement was the part I found horribly misguided.

  • Titletown99030507d

    I just dont like his rotations sometimes. Obviously he’s a good coach and can get his players motivated to play, but sometimes those rotations are a head scratcher.

  • Titletown99030507d

    What is up with Neal? Im sure missing some of his 3’s right abouy now.