This was San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili Tuesday evening after his team had just had an NBA championship in their grasps, but couldn’t close the deal as the Miami Heat forced a Game 7.
“I had a very good game last game,” said Ginobili of Game 5 where he scored 24 points and passed for 10 assists, “and today I just couldn't maintain it. I was very insecure‑‑ well, I had a career high in turnovers in a really bad moment. It really helps to make me feel terrible.”
“Even with all that,” continued Ginobili, “we were so close of winning it. So it's one of the many things I'll be thinking tonight.”
After a spectacular Game 5 performance, Ginobili continued on the roller-coaster ride he’s been on throughout these Finals as he only scored nine points, threw three assists, and turned the ball over a career-high eight times on Tuesday in Game 6.
“I have no clue how we're going to be reenergized,” continued Ginobili. “I'm devastated. But we have to. There's no Game 8 afterwards. We're going to have to play our best game, even better than today. Shoot better, better defense, less turnovers in my case, but, yeah, there's no secret recipe for bouncing back.”
Going back to Game 4, where Ginobili played 26 minutes, contributed only 5 points, 3 assists, and 1 turnover, the question ‘what’s wrong with Manu?’ began to arise.
From Game 4 to Game 5, as the criticism was surrounding Ginobili, his teammates never lost faith in him, and they knew he would bounce back.
After Game 5, I wrote a column describing how the Spurs are like a family. In a family, when one member is struggling at a low point in their life, the other members don’t just abandon them or criticize them, instead they offer support and continue to hold the belief that the struggling member will eventually overcome their challenges.
The same could be said for the Spurs on Tuesday after the game and Wednesday at the team’s practice. There, Ginobili’s teammates once again faced the media and made everyone aware that they haven’t lost faith in Manu.
“Manu will be good,” said Duncan Tuesday night. “He'll be fine. He made some turnovers and some unfortunate plays, but honestly, the last play down the stretch there, it can go either way. We obviously believe it was a foul going down the middle. We get two free throws and we're talking about something different here, if that happens.”
Duncan was referring to a play in overtime when the Spurs held the Heat scoreless on a possession, grabbed the rebound down one point, and head coach Gregg Popovich cued for Ginobili to take the ball down the middle of the lane. Ray Allen would strip Ginobili and the referees didn’t blow the whistle, so the Heat would take the turnover and turn it into points by way of free throws.
“So he'll be just fine,” continued Duncan of Ginobili. “He'll blame himself and put it on himself. That just makes him more aggressive and more ready to play the next one.”
Even Coach Popovich said Ginobili will be ready for Game 7.
When asked if he’s worried about the mental state of Ginobili, Coach Popovich had this response. “No, because that's how a competitor feels. A competitor feels it deeply and really, really tough loss in that regard. And I expect Manu to feel like that after the game.”
“But he'll be fine,” concluded Popovich of Ginobili.
“You know, Manu, like I said, he has his ups and downs,” said Danny Green at the Spurs’ practice Wednesday. “Obviously the last game wasn't his best game. We don't expect him to score 20 and have 10 like he did in Game 5, but we just expect him to play hard, to attack the defense, put pressure on them, and take care of the ball.”
So with the support of his coach and teammates, Ginobili too addressed the media Wednesday and said though he’s slowly getting over the Game 6 loss, he’s preparing himself for another shot at the title in Game 7.
“I'm still down,” said Ginobili. “A blow like that, it's not easy to get back up. But after 12 hours now, I feel a little better. Knowing that we have another chance, that we can do so many things better, and that we are in a Game 7 of the NBA Finals. There's not much more than that.”
“In this one, again, I just got to try to do my best to forget, learn from mistakes, and have a good, solid game next to my teammates,” said Ginobili as Game 7 approaches. “Not about trying to score more. Just be solid and more aggressive and less mistakes of course.”
There’s no telling what type of Ginobili will come out of the tunnel for Game 7, but for a player who is putting a lot of the responsibility on his shoulders for the Game 6 loss, Ginobili is one who you could infer will come out with fire in his eyes and will be ready to leave it all on the line.
Ginobili could play decent, he could play great, or he could continue to struggle and that’s the extraordinary part about basketball in the case of a guy like Ginobili. You can never predict his next move. He helped the Spurs clinch Game 7 against the Detroit Pistons back in 2005. He gave the Spurs a 3-point lead in 2006 against the Dallas Mavericks, but then took it away by fouling Dirk Nowitzki on the following play.
You just can’t predict what Ginobili’s going to do, and that’s what makes him so unique. It’s what makes Manu, well Manu. Game 7 could possibly be Ginobili’s last in a Spurs uniform or in a basketball uniform altogether. Should it be, Game 7 will be the closing chapter of his career, and that’s where you have to realize – Manu’s story is still being written.
As for Ginobili himself, he knows regardless of how bad Tuesday was, Thursday offers a chance for redemption.
“And we'll try to bounce back and still get it back,” finished Ginobili Wednesday. “We still have time.”
Remember folks, his story is still being written, will Manu be Manu? We’ll have to wait and see.