AT&T Center — San Antonio Spurs' Manu Ginobili's 2012-13 regular season was mired with injuries. He played in 60 of 82 games and was only able to get 11 minutes on the court in the team's regular season finale in San Antonio. His inconsistent play coupled with his injuries was enough for many to ponder if this might be the end of the road for Manu, as many felt he wasn't the player he once was.
Then Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs versus the Lakers tipped off and when the final buzzer sounded, it was Ginobili receiving the most praise.
Off the bench for San Antonio, Manu scored 18 points, had 2 steals, 2 rebounds and hit crucial three-pointers during the game (3-5 from behind the arch) in 18 efficient minutes to help lead the Spurs to a 91-79 victory over Lakers in Game 1.
"I feel good. I'm very happy that I played the whole game, that I didn't get hurt and that that I scored a little bit," said Ginobili postgame.
And it wasn't just Manu who was happy he saw more time out on the court, so were the other two players who make up the "Big 3."
"He was a huge spark for us. That's what we've always gotten from him. He's worked himself back in to get his minutes back up," said Tim Duncan on Ginobili's play in Game 1. "In the time he's in there, he's real effective he's being real aggressive and he's got his rhythm. He's doing what Manu does."
The third quarter is where Manu put his stamp on the game. He led the Spurs in the third with 10 points, shooting 3-6 from the field, and making two critical three pointers (2-2 from 3-point range).
"He has been here a long time and really knows our system ad tonight he made some timely three's and was our energy off the bench," Parker said about his teammate. "He looked great and was very aggressive. We are going to need that if we want to go far in the playoffs."
The trio of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili combined for 53 of the team's 91 points in the game but now the question is – will Manu be able to sustain this play throughout the playoffs?
The two days off before Game 2, and the structured format schedule of the playoffs, will do wonders for Ginobili. Keep in mind, this was just his second game back from the hamstring injury which makes his performance off the bench in Game 1 even more outstanding.
It may be just one game, but Manu's solid play is a good sign not just for his health but for his confidence and the confidence in his teammates to know he is back to do what he does best on the court for the past 11 seasons – bring the energy, passion, and that punch off the bench when the Spurs need it most.
Something Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni is all to weary of.
"Well, that's what he (Manu Ginobili) does and he's good at it."