McNeill on NBA Finals: A vintage performance

Manu Ginobili had doubts before prior to Game 5. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Manu Ginobili’s wild roller coaster of a weekend ended on a high note as he helped the San Antonio Spurs coast to a 114-104 victory over the Miami Heat.

Earlier this weekend, he became so frustrated with his relative ineffectiveness in the playoffs that Ginoboli admitted to toying with the idea of retiring this summer. The 35-year-old shooting guard has long been one of San Antonio’s Big Three but during the NBA Finals he had been averaging 7.5 points – well below the 14.9 he has averaged during his NBA career.

“He did seem dejected,” teammate Tim Duncan admitted when asked about Ginobili`s emotions this weekend.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich realized that his veteran shooting guard needed a boost of confidence so he decided to match Miami’s small-ball line-up by inserting him into the starting line-up. The move worked to perfection as Ginobili scored four of San Antonio’s first eight points while assisting or scoring on all of San Antonio’s first four buckets.

He didn’t slow down after a hot first quarter as he finished with 24 points while dishing out 10 assists.

“I knew that I was going to be more aggressive… but I didn’t expect a 24-point game,” Ginobili joked with the media after the game.

Chalk it up to Ginobili once again feeling vital after getting the starting nod despite his recent shooting woes.

“I needed to feel more important,” Ginobili said. “I was angry, disappointed. We are playing in the NBA Finals, we were 2-2, and I felt I still wasn’t helping the team that much.”

The starting nod, combined by a pep talk from Popovich, gave him the confidence to look for his shot early and often in Game 5.

“I needed to make a couple shots,” Ginobili said. “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.”

Ginobili was also a big reason why San Antonio’s starters scored 107 points – four more than the 103 the entire team has averaged during the regular season. It also marks the most the Spurs starting five has combined to score in a game over the past seven years.

The fans at the AT&T Center loved the impact Ginobili had on the game. At the end of the third quarter the fans joined in for a rowdy show of appreciation for Ginobili that was captured on Vine by NBA blogger Royce Young.

But it wasn`t just his scoring burst. It was the fact Ginobili had returned to the player who hit magical shots in traffic and was aggressive looking to score inside the paint. He found a way to play the way fans had grown to love and expect from him over the past decade.

“There’s no backing off with him,” R.C. Buford told Yahoo! Sports. “He’s going to attack and that’s what’s made him – that’s what’s made Manu … Manu.”

Was Game 5 a flash in the pan or did the move to San Antonio’s starting five give him the boost he needed? Only time will tell, but the Spurs are hoping he has at least one or two more games left in him.

Everybody has been talking about how important it is for Miami’s Big Three to play well, but Game 5 showed how important it is for San Antonio’s own big three to play well if the Spurs are going to win a championship this season.

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