Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but Manu Ginobili showed Sunday night why he’s the best sixth man of all time.
The San Antonio Spurs’ future Hall-of-Famer — yes, Manu is that good — put on a clinic on how to spark a basketball team as he almost single-handedly lifted the Spurs past the Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Heading into the series, the Ginobili-Harden battle is one of the marquee matchups and after Game 1 the Harden will have to pick it up on both ends because Ginobili seems to have that extra bounce in his Euro step. “Manu was great tonight. He was very aggressive. He was in a good rhythm, you can see he had a little bounce. In the fourth quarter he wanted the ball,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said of Ginobili, who scored 11 of his team-high 26 points in the final 12 minutes of a 101-98 San Antonio victory.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks had high praise for Ginobili after the game, and will most likely devote most of his game planning for Game 2 to keep the Spurs guard from getting loose. “He was terrific. He gets to the basket, gets to the foul line, and that’s what he does,” Brooks said. “He finds cracks you don’t even think is possible, but he figures it out to get through. We have to do a better job of corraling him.”
Whether it was Harden (who scored 19 points but was just 7-for-17 from the field) guarding him or Thabo Sefolosha or Kevin Durant, Ginobili was very active on offense and when he has it going he’s a very, very tough cover for anyone.
“We need for him to create, whether its shooting or driving or assisting somebody else. That’s what he has done for us in his career and it’s real important to us. Without that we have a tough time winning,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of his “reserve” guard who went 9-for-14 from the field and 3-for-5 from 3-point range.
He may be coming off the bench most of the time, but make no mistake about it Ginobili is an All-Star player in the Association and will go down in history as one of the best to ever play the game.
“Ginobili is a fantastic player,” Brooks said. “He finishes around the basket and he’s making his threes. He’s played in a lot of big ballgames.”
The Spurs are already a great team, but when Ginobili is healthy and rolling they are almost unbeatable.