Manu Ginobili did what he has been doing against the Sonics all series. He took the ball to the basket. He was fouled hard. He popped back up...
SAN ANTONIO — Manu Ginobili did what he has been doing against the Sonics all series.
He took the ball to the basket. He was fouled hard. He popped back up.
It didn’t matter that last night he was in the starting lineup.
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“That’s the way I always play,” the Spurs’ Argentinian star said. “I was concerned about bringing a lot of juice, a lot of energy tonight. It didn’t matter if it was after the first six minutes or at the start.”
Ginobili’s 39 points led the Spurs to a 103-90 victory over the Sonics in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal. But it was the way he scored those points that mattered most to Ginobili.
“I hit my first two or three three-pointers,” he said after the game, brushing back his floppy hair. “That was huge for me. When I do that, it opens up a lot of other things.”
Such as his patented drives, spinning hooks and left-handed scoops. Early in the third quarter, he even made a one-handed, hanging push shot in the lane.
He got fouled and made the free throw. The three-point play helped fuel the Spurs’ 17-3 run to open the quarter. The Sonics got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
“When he’s rolling like that, the crowd gets into it and so do we,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. “That’s the kind of energy we need.”
Ginobili was 15 of 17 from the free-throw line. He made 4 of 6 three-point attempts. Almost hidden under the gaudy offensive numbers were his team-high six assists.
“He was aggressive but still unselfish,” Duncan said. “When he gets in the zone like that, heads turn and he finds open people for layups.”
Much had been made of former Sonic Brent Barry’s lack of production in the series, prompting speculation that he would be replaced by Ginobili in the starting lineup.
Barry struggled again last night. He went 0 for 3 from the field and missed both of his three-pointers. He was scoreless in 22 minutes.
Asked why he decided to start Ginobili, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said simply, “I just thought it was time.”
That left the Spurs with a depleted bench, which was outscored by the Sonics’ reserves, 28-6.
But Ginobili more than made up for it. He had 19 points in the first half and 14 in the decisive third quarter — half his team’s total. The Spurs outscored the Sonics in the quarter 28-18.
“We thought they’d be aggressive with Ginobili and [Tony] Parker,” Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. “We didn’t do a good job defensively on their pick-and-rolls. And we put him [Ginobili] on the free-throw line 17 times.
“But with him, you’ve got to give up something.”
Ginobili burned the Sonics from every angle and from every distance.
He drew a flagrant foul in the fourth quarter. He made two free throws, and after the Spurs rebounded their own miss, Duncan banged in a 10-footer for a 97-81 lead.
“We’re not playing dirty basketball,” Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. “Some of that is acting on his part. He’s flopping out there sometimes but he’s getting the calls. He’s fearless when he goes into the paint.
“[The fouls] didn’t stop him tonight. And they won’t stop him, either. But we can’t let him drive to the rim without making him pay. That’s just good basketball.”