The moment: With 6:09 left in the third quarter, San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had just touched down on the floor after a powerful one-handed dunk over Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets. At that time, Ginobili had just tied the Spurs with the Rockets at 56 points, and Ginobili was responsible for eight straight Spurs points as he had scored six points and assisted to Patty Mills for a layup.
Upon running back on the floor to get back on defense, Ginobili stopped, put two hands over his head and immediately grimaced into pain. He even tried to go to the scorer’s table hoping play would stop, but no one on his team had any idea he was hurt. The Spurs would play a few possessions before Ginobili was pulled with 4:59 left in third, and he immediately went limping to the locker room. The initial injury evaluation was a tight left hamstring and Ginobili would not return to the game. After the game, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told the media it was the same injury that sidelined Ginobili for two games recently and that an MRI would be conducted on Wednesday.
With the Spurs already missing three injured players and adding Ginobili to the group, they would battle to the final minutes with the Rockets, who were also missing James Harden due to injury, but in the end, Dwight Howard, Jeremy Lin and the Rockets would hold on for the 97-90 win with five critical offensive rebounds coming in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter.
For the second time in the last three games, Boris Diaw led the Spurs in scoring with 22 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks. With Ginobili out for the fourth quarter, the Spurs started running their offense down in the block through Diaw as he scored nine points in the final quarter. Tony Parker scored 17 points but needed 16 shots for the points, while his counterpart’s Jeremey Lin (18 points, 8 assists) and Patrick Beverley (11 points) had the advantage with Parker only having Cory Joseph or Patty Mills by his side for a majority of the game in the backcourt. Tim Duncan helped Diaw in the front court as he scored 12 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and had 4 blocks against the front line of Dwight Howard (23 points, 16 rebounds) and Terrence Jones (21 points, 9 rebounds).
Impressive Shot Charts
Terrence Jones – After Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat shot 90% from the floor against the Spurs’ front court on Sunday, the Spurs’ defense on the front court improved just a tad as they held Terrence Jones to 75% shooting.
Quick Reaction to Ginobili Injury
· Boomers Mills mode – In the fourth quarter, Coach Popovich elected to finish the final minutes with a backcourt of Parker and Mills. With the Australian National team in the summer, Mills usually plays shooting guard and Matthew Dellavedova plays the point guard role, so playing Mills at two-guard isn’t too much of an issue offensively as he provides Parker another shooter, and option out in the open court. Defensively is where playing Mills next to Parker can be a major issue. Teams can post either of them in the block, and as was evident on Tuesday against the Rockets, when the Spurs needed a clutch defensive rebound for a stop, the Rockets’ larger backcourt and wing players always had the advantage over Mills and Parker. If Popovich elects to continue to start Diaw with the injury to Ginobili, Mills becomes the Spurs’ go-to scoring option off the bench, and though he’s shown he can put up points quickly, he can also have rough shooting stretches like Tuesday where he finished shooting 3-of-7 from the field for 7 points.
· Possible bench changes – With a lighter bench minus Ginobili, Popovich may decide to tinker with his lineups and bring Diaw off the bench to run the offense through him. Another option, though it’s a stretch, could be for Popovich to start Otheyus Jeffers at small forward, and bring Marco Belinelli off the bench to put a shot creator into that lineup. Though Ginobili’s timetable for return has not been set, Popovich will do what needs to be done to create a bench as effective as possible while not putting too much strain on Parker and Duncan’s minutes.
· More time for De Colo? – For the Spurs fans in support of more playing time for Nando De Colo, he may now get his chance at receiving legitimate playing time depending on how long Ginobili will be out. This past summer in the Las Vegas Summer League, the Spurs sent De Colo to Vegas to get more comfortable at playing the shooting guard position, and these next few games could be De Colo’s first chance to show how much he’s improved since his rookie season.
Where San Antonio Stands
· Regular Season: 33-12
· Road Record: 16-5
· Vs. Opponents with +.500 records: 17-11
· Vs. the Western Conference: 20-9
· Season Series against Houston: Rockets 3-0
(All stats used via NBA.com/Stats. Video Credit: Hardwood Paroxysm)