Posted on January 4, 2018, by Travis Pulver
San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili is no spring chicken. He hasn’t just been around the block a time or two. He helped build the block. In a game that features a ton of fresh, young talent every year, you’d think the NBA would not have a place for a 40-year old, 15-year veteran like Manu Ginobili.
If there were any doubts that he doesn’t belong, they were put to rest Friday night in San Antonio.
Ginobili came off the bench to tie for the team lead with 21 points becoming just the second 40+ year old to score 20+ points off the bench (Vince Carter being the other). He scored 15 in the third quarter to help keep the Suns from overcoming a seven-point half time deficit.
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“I totally respect what he’s doing out there,” Suns center Tyson Chandler said after the game(ESPN). “It seems like whenever we got close, he hit every big shot. He’s been doing that consistently for the last 19 years.”
His longtime head coach, Greg Popovich, was just as impressed (ESPN):
“He’s something else. Whatever he’s drinking, I want some of it. I’m serious. There’s got to be a fountain of youth someplace.”
The last time Ginobili scored 21 points was against the Golden State Warriors in the Conference Finals last year. His previous season was the 18-points he scored against the Milwaukee Bucks on November 10.
Ginobili’s 15-points in the third quarter helped the Spurs stretch their seven-point halftime lead to an eight-point one heading into the final period. The Suns played better defense in the fourth, but struggled to score against San Antonio’s defense and lost 103-89.
The Spurs were playing without LaMarcus Aldridge (rest) and Danny Green (injury), their top scorers this season. But with 15 steals and six blocks, they were able to limit the Suns offense and create enough of their own.
“It’s their active hands,” Phoenix coach Jay Triano said (ESPN). “They trace the ball, they chart deflections. Their hands are always in the pot. They don’t let you make a pass on time, and on target and they take a lot of pride in that.”
Next up for San Antonio will be an away game against the Trail Blazers Sunday night. Phoenix will try to back on the right side of the scoreboard Sunday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Almost as important as the win is the improving play of Spurs superstar forward Kawhi Leonard who tied Ginobili for the team lead with 21 points. It was his eighth game back after missing the first 27 recovering from an injury.
“Kawhi is getting to look more and more like himself every game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said (ESPN).
He had three blocks and four steals to go with his 21-points. Eight of his points came during a 26-3 run in the second quarter.
Phoenix has a long way to go if they are going to become a playoff team. As long as San Antonio can be relatively healthy when the playoffs start, there is no reason to think they can’t make another run at a title.