AT&T Center – On Thursday when the San Antonio Spurs fell to the Miami Heat in Game 4, some fans and even media members were all asking a similar question, what’s wrong with Manu Ginobili?
In the locker room and on the podium however, Ginobili’s teammates remained confident and had faith that Ginobili would come out of his shooting slump in the series.
“I have a lot of confidence in Manu,” said Tony Parker Thursday night. “I just know he’s going to have a big game soon.”
“I have not lost confidence in Manu,” added Gary Neal after the Spurs had faced defeat Thursday.
Fast forward to Game 5 on Sunday and Ginobili visiting the free throw line before the Spurs defeated the Heat 114-104, and Spurs fans this time were yelling, “Manu! Manu! Manu!” in unison.
After the game, Parker didn’t even need a question. He simply addressed the media and said this: “I told you Manu was going to play good. You didn’t believe me.”
Ginobili wasn’t just good on Sunday, he was superb from start to finish as he scored 24 points on 8-of-14 shots, passed for 10 assists, and visited the free throw line four times. As Dwayne Wade had done in Game 4, Ginobili had returned to the vintage version of himself in Game 5.
After Game 4 on Thursday, when asked why Ginobili had been so ineffective, Popovich responded, “I don’t know. If I knew that I would have fixed it already.”
The fixing part came on Sunday however. Popovich decided to start Ginobili in Game 5 for two reasons: 1) matchup with the Heat’s small-ball lineup, and 2) Allow Ginobili to work within the offense as the Heat defense zones in on Parker and Tim Duncan.
“I played with Tony more,” said Ginobili of starting, “so I was off the ball in more situations. I attacked better, get to the free throw line a little bit more, and those things combined got me going.”
Where not all, but some fans were beginning to doubt Ginobili, it was something to see and hear the silver and black nation yelling Ginobili’s name in unison. Ginobili said he really needed that support from the fans.
“As I said before, I needed it,” said Ginobili of the fan support in the AT&T Center. “I was having a tough time scoring, and I needed to feel like the game was coming to me, and I was being able to attack the rim, get to the free throw line, and make a couple of shots.”
“So it felt great when I heard that,” said Ginobili of the fans yelling his name. “To feel that I really helped the team to get that 20 point lead, it was a much needed moment in the series. So I'm glad to see it happen.”
For Parker, having Ginobili play well boosts the team as a whole.
“I think the whole team, it helps everybody, because we know Manu is a big part of what we do,” said Parker. “And we needed a game like that from him.”
Duncan for one felt the criticism of Ginobili in Game 4 was unfair. He says within the Spurs team, they’re not a team that blames reasons for losses on individual players.
“We're not a team or an organization that kind of points fingers in that respect,” said Duncan. “I know it's on the media to find out what's wrong with everybody, what happened whatever game, but he's such a huge part of what we do. And how far we've come. And you can see it tonight in how we played and the results of the game.”
“So we're always confident in him,” continued Duncan of Ginobili. “We don't look at the stats and say, hey, it's his fault or his fault or his fault. We know he has it in him and we hope he can bring it for at least one more win.”
“Manu is a competitor,” said Popovich “he just keeps pushing, and he does what he does. I mean, he's come to practice and worked on his shot. He's seen film. He has confidence in himself that he should just continue to compete. That's what he's done his whole career.”
Ginobili’s teammates, who never lost confidence in him, also praised him afterward. “He did great tonight,” said Kawhi Leonard. “Manu was spectacular,” added Tiago Splitter, who also had a bounce-back game himself.
And finally, Neal, who said he never had doubts Ginobili would improve, had high praise for Ginobili. “Manu was phenomenal,” said Neal. “Tonight, he kind of put it all together.”
Like Duncan, Ginobili said he’s not a player who reads or listens to what others say about him.
“I really don't know exactly what was going on,” said Ginobili, “but with so much media around, they ask you things that you are not used to answer. So that's when you realize you're being criticized. But I really don't read what's going on. I knew that I was not scoring much, and I feel it in the air. But I tried not to care about it.”
“I know ‑‑ I'm critical enough of myself to be worrying about what other people say,” continued Ginobili. “So as I was telling before, I was frustrated enough knowing what I played, how I played and what I could do better. So I really didn't need to listen what other people were saying or reading about it.”
“You know, everybody was behind him,” continued Parker of how Ginobili’s teammates supported him. “I defended him the whole time. I was feeling a big game for Manu. I've been playing with him for a long time. I said this morning it's a great opportunity for Manu. I was happy when Pop put him in the starting five, because you can get a rhythm.”
When asked if he thought the criticism of Ginobili was a bit much, Parker said it might have been.
“Yeah, of course,” said Parker of the criticism. “Of course. Because for everything he did for the franchise, I thought it was a little bit too harsh.”
Just as a family never loses faith in any of its members when they’re in the low points of their life, the Spurs never gave up on Ginobili when he needed their support the most.
Sunday was a prime example.