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Manu gets his groove back

Post by ramieljosh18 on Tue Jun 18, 2013 4:41 am

Photo: San Antonio Spurs' Manu Ginobili (20), of Argentina, attempts a shot as Miami Heat's Chris Bosh (1) defends during the second half at Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball series, Sunday, June 16, 2013, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
NEW YORK -- Averaging just 7.5 points and three assists through four games in the ongoing 2013 NBA Finals, San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili has been given up for dead, what with his turnover-prone play and pathetic shooting clip -- 34.5 percent from the field.

But Coach Gregg Popovich never lost faith. Instead of limiting the minutes of his plodding 35-year old two-guard, Popovich, in a high-risk, low reward move, inserted Ginobili in the starting lineup in lieu of the equally-struggling 6-foot-11 Tiago Splitter.

It was a gamble that paid off handsomely as the Spurs outlasted the Miami Heat in a see-saw Game 5, 114-104, today at the AT&T Center. Leading 3-2 in this best-of-seven series the Spurs are on the brink of their fifth NBA title since 1999, needing only to win either Game 6, or 7 if necessary, at the American Airlines Arena.

In his first start since Game 6 of last year's Western Conference Finals, Ginobili rewarded his coach's confidence with the performance of a lifetime. The cagey left-handed player from Argentina finished with 24 points and 10 assists against three turnovers. He made just 1-of-4 from 3-point range but he sank 8-of-14 overall and 7-of-8 free throws.

Ginobili's insertion in the starting lineup energized the Spurs, who welcomed Game 5 with a 32-19 first quarter burst. San Antonio would eventually lead by 17, before cooling off and settling with a 61-52 advantage by halftime.

The defending champions Heat made a late charge in the third quarter, going on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit at 61-59. But the Spurs held their ground and answered with a 10-0 blast that pushed the lead back up to 87-75 entering the fourth quarter. After trailing 96-76 with 9:13 left, the Heat made a late charge but they couldn't get any closer than nine points the rest of the way.  

"When Manu plays like Manu Ginobili, we are a much better team," Popovich told ABC-TV.

With Ginobili paving the way, San Antonio's two other stars -- Tim Duncan and Tony Parker -- also played well. Duncan had 17 points and 12 rebounds while Parker had 26 points and five assists. Combined, the Spurs Big Three totaled 67 points on 25-of-38 shooting.

The Heat's Big Three also had a high 66-point total, but LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh made only 25 of 55 field goals.

Spurs guard-forward Danny Green continued his remarkable 3-point shooting, this time converting 6-for-10 from beyond the arc. With a total of 25 threes made thus far, Green broke Ray Allen's record of 22 triples in an NBA Finals series. Green finished with 24 points and six rebounds.

With his 3-point record shattered, Allen quickly established a new one, becoming the first player to complete a pair of 4-point plays in an NBA Finals series. Allen came off the bench with 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting and he made all four of his three-point attempts.

But the story of Game 5 is Ginobili's re-emergence as a vital cog in this championship round.

Thanks to him, the Spurs are a mere 48 minutes away from lifting another Larry O'Brien trophy.

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