The San Antonio Spurs are off a best start in recent years and there are many reasons for this. Richard Jefferson is playing better in his sophomore year, Tony Parker is having a career season in the assists department, DeJuan Blair is beginning to settle in his starting role, Matt Bonner is hitting his shots and their bench got deeper.
All this has made the Spurs a better team than a year ago but they will not be 8-1 after nine games if Manu Ginobili has not been playing phenomenal.
Ginobili has scored at least 20 or more points in six of the Spurs' nine games and currently leads the team with 21.3 points per game and is second in assists at 4.3 per ball game. Not only that, his 40.6% 3-point shooting and 92% clip from the foul line are career bests.·
But more than just numbers, Ginobili has always provided the Spurs the extra punch that pushes them to the next level. What do I mean? Here are a few examples.
Against the Phoenix Suns, Ginobili made a critical pass that translated into a Jefferson 3-pointer late in the fourth period and then he sealed the game by making the final free throw of the game. Spurs win 112-110.
Three nights later, the Spurs found themselves trailing against the Houston Rockets 113-111 with 16 seconds remaining on the clock. Never giving up, Ginobili fouled Courtney Lee to send him to the foul line and put him under pressure. Lee missed both free throws. On the ensuing play, Manu made a 17 footer to send the game into overtime and the Spurs eventually won the game.
On the road against the Charlotte Bobcats, the Spurs looked headed to a fourth quarter collapse as the hard-fighting Bobcats made a 7-0 run to cut the Spurs' lead to 93-91. Ginobili again rose to the occasion, he made a driving layup with 4.9 seconds left that clinched another Spurs win.
If that wasn't enough, in a close game against the Thunder, with the Spurs needing some separation, Manu scored five straight points and handed an assists to a hot-shooting Matt Bonner mid-way in the final period for another 3 pointer. At that point, the Oklahoma City Thunder were done and never recovered from a 13 point deficit.
Simply put it. When Manu plays like Manu, the Spurs are better. Sure, the Spurs are still a good team with Parker, Duncan or even Jefferson at the helm. But with Manu weaving some magic, the Spurs are definitely a tougher team to beat.