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Waiting For Ginobili

By Jeff Koch on December 30, 2012.

For the last 3 seasons, the Spurs have been a regular season machine, rolling to victory after victory despite down stretches from their best players, significant injuries, odd and horrible scheduling, and anything else that could be thrown at them. This is due in large part to the culture and consistency built up by a decade and a half of Pop and Duncan, and a decade with Parker and Ginobili. Add that level of talent to consistency and you’re going to easily win 70% of your games.

But while the regular season has been mastered, the post-season has been disappointing over those seasons. Once the games tighten, rotations shorten, and systems can be game planned, more consistent talent will usually win out. Against the Grizzlies a few years ago, we ran into a scorching hot Zach Randolph while simultaneously suffering a broken elbow to Ginobili. And we all know last year’s story: OKC “stole our identity”, and overwhelmed us with more consistent talent.

So while we continue to rack up wins in the regular season, we all know that the real test lies in the post-season. And has been said about the Spurs many a time, this team doesn’t go anywhere without a healthy and dominant Ginobili. And if you’re searching for a dark lining to a silver cloud, it’s been the very rocky play of Ginobili this year. It’s not always reflected in the numbers, but his play hasn’t passed the eye test: he’s missed more passes than he’s made, his shot often looked flat, his drives were stopped about 3 feet shorter than normal, and he seemed unable to be a top flight scorer. He just wasn’t that guy anymore. And while the team could easily rattle off another 55 to 60 regular season wins without that guy, there’s no way we get past the second round without him.

So the best part of this rather ho-hum stretch of the schedule has been the ever so slight uptick in Manu’s game. After the victory against Dallas tonight, he had registered his first back-to-back 20 point games. While scoring is not what makes Manu special, it’s still important that he can be a top scorer for this team. In crunch time of big games, your best players need to have the ball and need to score.

Just as importantly, everything else looks better. Tonight he registered 5 rebounds and 5 assists, with only 1 turnover. His cutting is sharper, and he seems to have that burst to make it to the rim now, where he was being stopped a few feet out in the past. His 3-point shot is becoming more consistent. And he really seems to have embraced being the leader of the second unit, which really put the game away at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter tonight.

With Duncan having a career resurgence and Parker continuing his career peak, we had lots of time to be patient and wait for Ginobili. Unlike Godot, though, it seems as if he will actually show up.

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