With Kawhi Leonard busted up on the bench and Tony Parker already on the shelf for the postseason, Gregg Popovich didn’t have much of a choice. But going to the bench and calling on the old man — Manu Ginobili — and then watching the 39-year old turn back the hands of time was absolutely epic.
Because all postseason, it looked like the end for Manu. Down to just 7.5 points a game, shooting below 40 percent this regular season, the gas tank was clearly on empty this postseason. He and his Dad bod looked better suited for a pickup game at the Y than a NBA Playoff matchup against one of the best offensive attacks in the NBA. But Old Man Manu had a few tricks up his sleeve — and for one night he played the hits like only he can — 12 points, 7 boards, 5 dimes with no turnovers and one LEGENDARY BLOCK on James Harden to clinch a 110-107 overtime victory.
Best swat since he knocked that bat into the tenth row back in the day.
That will always be his finest moment as an NBA’er, but this one is close. Score one for the legend. A guy who hadn’t blocked a postseason shot from distance in FIVE YEARS went and got one from the hardest guy in the NBA to swat. He hadn’t blocked a 3-point attempt since January of 2016, but with the clock ticking to zero, he elevated, avoiding fouling a guy who draws whistles better than anybody else in the league and then got his 4th career block of a last minute game-tyer or go-ahead attempt, the others coming against scrubs named Kobe, Ray Allen and Kevin Love.
And with the Spurs pushed to the brink, missing their MVP, their trusted point guard, and needing to find some magic, Manu took control — sending the Spurs out a winner…and that was only after nearly bringing the barn to the ground when he elevated and flushed one.
That’s some serious “grandpa juice,” as Patty Mills glossed it. A wrong-foot, right-hand” dunk as Danny Green called it. And on a night when the Spurs badly needed it, 32 minutes for a guy who hadn’t broken the teens this playoffs — a performance that Pop knows might be one of the last great ones he gets from his aging star: “Manu reached back and gave us one of his Manu performances from past years,” San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He was a stud. We actually went to him with Kawhi [Leonard] off the court [due to an ankle injury]. We went to him to generate some offense, and make some things happen. He did a good job, whether it was distributing or scoring. He was big for us.”
Forget about what this means going forward. Forget for a minute what Kawhi’s injury means for the Spurs in Game 6 or 7, or next round if they get there against the Warriors. Appreciate what we just saw. A 39-year-old, the gas light on and his exit on the horizon, revving it up one last time to rip a win that the Spurs absolutely needed to have — hitting the Rockets with some serious Grandpa Juice, emptying the tank to help the Spurs push the Rockets to the brink.
15 seasons in, a couple months from his 40th birthday, Manu turned back the clock — stuffing the beard at the buzzer and stealing an overtime win for Pop and the Spurs. I really didn’t think that guy, had that kind of game in him. I’m not sure his teammates thought that guy had that kind of game in him. But he proved us all wrong.
I don’t know if he can do it again, but I do know I didn’t think he could do it in the first place… 4 rings in a 15 year NBA career and one of his finest moments ever occurs at 39. Mad, mad respect, Manu. Mad respect.