The San Antonio Spurs have become accustomed to seeing Manu Ginobili injured entering or during the playoffs.
When he was injured yet again during the final stretch run of the season, the Spurs’ playoff hopes dwindled. Ginobili and Tony Parker said the goal, for Manu, was to return for the last few games and hopefully be back to 100 percent by the time the Finals or Conference Finals started.
In the finals game of the season against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Ginobili returned, finishing with two points and two rebounds in 12 minutes.
It’s safe to say that no one expected too much from Manu, aside from having another warm body to play a few minutes a game as he worked his way back from injury during the first two games with the Lakers.
Ginobili has essentially rewritten the first round script, coming off the bench in spurts providing the Spurs’ extra energy and leading them on runs. Limited to just 19 points per game through the first two games of the series, Ginobili is averaging 15.5 points, five assists and 3.5 rebounds per game.
Entering tonight’s game as the series shifts to Los Angeles, Ginobili is ready to be on the floor a little longer than he has been the last eight quarters.
"I'm ready to play more. He's (Gregg Popovich) always very cautious. I probably could have played more today, but we had a great lead in the fourth up 17. So he probably thought that we had a shot of closing it right there,” Ginobili said after Wednesday’s game. “I’m ready to play my minutes. I'm not the type of player to play 40 (minutes) ever. Around 25 to 30 (minutes) is what I usually play. I think I'm ready."
After seeing what Ginobili has been able to provide, it’s natural to want him out on the floor more, especially when the offense goes stale and players like Danny Green are struggling.
But having Ginobili come in and play well in small bursts has worked well, and there is obviously concern that Ginobili could rush back faster than he needs to and risk injury.
Unless the Spurs are struggling and in risk of dropping a game, expect Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to continue to limit Ginobili’s minutes and increase them slightly from game-to-game.
Having Ginobili at full strength during the Western Conference Finals, if they get through the first two rounds, is certainly more important than having him take risks playing more minutes against a depleted Lakers backcourt.
But if he’s not at 100 percent now, it will be interesting to see what his version of 100 percent is like later in the playoffs when it counts most.