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The Spurs need more from Manu Ginobili, but can he provide it?

Jun 14, 2013, 12:59 PM EDT

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - Game Four Getty Images

There’s no easy way to say this, so let’s just get right to it: Manu Ginobili is having, for his standard, an awful NBA Finals.

The Spurs’ super-sub who’s a charter member of their vaunted “Big 3″ simply doesn’t resemble the player who has, for years, struck fear into the opposition with explosive scoring outbursts and sustained overall excellence.

Beyond what our eyes are showing us, the numbers back this up. Through four games of the Finals, Ginobili is averaging 7.5 points on 34.5% shooting (18.8% on threes), 1.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.8 turnovers in 24 minutes a night. Compared to the regular season — where he played nearly the exact same minutes per game — these numbers (save for the turnovers) are all down dramatically.

Further, these individual failings negatively impact the team’s performance when Ginobili is on the floor versus when he’s off it. Per NBA.com’s stats tool, the Spurs are scoring 108.6 points per 100 possessions while holding the Heat to 89.7 while Ginobili is on the bench. But when he comes into the game, the Spurs offense suffers, dipping to 101.2 points per 100 possessions while their defense falls off a cliff to the tune of allowing 123.9 points per 100 possessions.

Some of these numbers are obviously related to who Ginobili is coming in for when subbed into the game. When Manu gets his number called, it’s almost always for either Danny Green or Kawhi Leonard, two of the Spurs’ better defensive players and, in the case of Green, one of their best offensive players this series. Any Spur replacing either of these players will see a dip in the team’s effectiveness simply because they’re removing one of the Spurs’ best performers.

However, while we can attempt to explain away why the team is performing so poorly when Ginobili enters the game, it doesn’t erase his individual struggles. Ginobili can’t buy an outside shot but is also having trouble converting at the rim, making only 5 of his 11 shots in the restricted area. And while he’s done a good job of avoiding the types of long two point shots that could drag down his efficiency even further, if he can’t knock down the three point shot and can’t finish in the paint, that’s a real problem.

Where Ginobili has been good is in creating shots for others and in generally running the offense when Tony Parker is on the bench. Manu still has the instincts and flair of a matador when handling the ball in the pick and roll and has done well to dodge the blitzing Heat defense while picking out shooters on the wings and his roll man diving to the cup with equal effectiveness.

But Ginobili needs to be more than a great passer to make an impact on the game; he needs to find a way to score some points. After game 4, Tim Duncan said that the Spurs needed Ginobili to be “more selfish” in looking for his own offense and while that may lead to more misses, if it also allows him to establish a good rhythm the Spurs will likely live with those results.

Ginobili is a proud player and has been a warrior over the course of his career. He’s made his name not just through his stellar play, but by raising his game in the biggest moments, even carrying the Spurs for long stretches and winning games almost single handedly. You never want to count out a player like that — just look at Dwayne Wade to see that can turn out — but right now the doubt he can significantly raise his game is real.

The fact is, however, is that the Spurs will probably need at least one vintage Manu performance over the course of this series if they’re to claim the championship. The problem is that he’s done little to inspire confidence that he can reach that level.

  1. amoose3 - Jun 14, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    I was waiting for people to take serious notice of this. He’s been sub-par all postseason long but hes been dreadful in the finals. On both ends of the floor the Spurs are much worse with him on the court the only thing he’s currently bringing to the table are some clever passes otherwise he’s a complete negative. If I were Popp I’d play him in Game 5 for a few minutes and if he doesnt step up I’d pull him quick. He’s actually doing more harm than good

    • fanofevilempire - Jun 14, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      Manu looks done.

      • sportsfan18 - Jun 14, 2013 at 5:14 PM

        Yep. He’s played long and hard. His style of play was tough on his body. He’s been a great player. I don’t remember which site, but there was an article just before the finals began that said Manu would consider retiring after the finals.

        He knows. If the Spurs were to win, I think he would. If not, I think he think long and hard about it, talk to Pop honestly about it, we wouldn’t know what was said but I think he’d ask Pop if he and the team could accept a reduced role/output and would it be OK, could Pop work with that next year in a way that wouldn’t hurt the team.

        He played well and he played hard for a long time. He was a big part of what the Spurs accomplished for the past decade. He has nothing to be ashamed of as Father Time is undefeated…

        I sense he knows the end is either here or very close. I’m pulling for the Spurs, not because of this, but I think he’ll be done if they do win…

  2. hehateme2 - Jun 14, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    The Spurs are getting gassed. The longer this goes on the better the Heat will look. They (Spurs) had a long break prior to the Finals but last night showed their fatigue.

    This is a great Finals but the Heat should prevail in the end.

    • fanofevilempire - Jun 14, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      Spurs can’t hide the fact that the best players are too old and Tony looks to
      be hurt now. The good thing they have two days off, but then they fly to Miami
      but I still wouldn’t count them out.

  3. pmx8411 - Jun 14, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    The Spurs need a WADE like performance from MANU and Stephen A. Smith, Jalen Rose and Wilbon are straight up just disrespecting Ginobili saying he is DONE and TOAST….CMON MANU GIVE US ONE MORE SHOW before they take this back to South Beach

    • nard100 - Jun 14, 2013 at 4:17 PM

      I know the talking heads can be really annoying sometimes, but I just don’t see it happening. I think father time has caught up to the G-man.

  4. azarkhan - Jun 14, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    Manu played 26 minutes and only took 5 shots (Boris Diaw played 11 minutes and took 6 shots) so Duncan is right when he says Manu has to be more “selfish”. On the other hand, if Splitter knew how to finish at the rim, Manu would have had 3 more assists.

    • gmsingh123 - Jun 15, 2013 at 6:39 AM

      Ginobli is playing like he put money down on the Heat.

  5. goraidersgospurs - Jun 14, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    This where S.Jax is needed he could have picked up Manu points, while Neal & Green do there thing!!!

  6. explosionsauce - Jun 14, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    As a spurs fan I can confidently say Manu is playing like a shell of his former self. His shot is crap ad his passes are becoming more and more suspect.

    • gostlcards5 - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:50 PM

      I don’t know if I agree that his shot is crap. His 3-pt shot selection has been awful. A lot of the success that the Spurs have had (namely with Neal’s and Green’s barrage in Gm 3) is moving the ball and getting OPEN shots. Manu a lot of times is dribbling outside the arc, basically stationary, and pops with a guy in his face, or he’s inside the arc taking a step back into the same shot. The one 3-pt shot I remember him hitting was a better look than most of his shots are.

      If he’s going to keep taking those shots, he needs to do a Wade/James from Gm 4 and drive a lot to try for a couple of easy scores and see if he gets a feel, because he sure doesn’t have one the way he’s playing now.

  7. kerbyjr1 - Jun 14, 2013 at 3:44 PM

    Where’s Steve Jackson when u need him

    • fanofevilempire - Jun 14, 2013 at 4:27 PM

      well, funny story about him, he thought he had more game then Mano
      and I guess he told Pop and Pop didn’t agree and said no more NBA for you.

      • fredagsedb - Jun 14, 2013 at 4:50 PM

        Not Manu but Green

  8. sellahh - Jun 14, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    I really, really hope he gets benched in favour of TMac. Manu makes 4-5 great passes that lead to scores each game. And 4 others that lead to turnovers. The tradeoff is really not good. I hear what SJax said, he might not be better than Green/Neal but I’m sure as hell he’d be better than Manu.

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