When Doc Rivers said before the game he wanted his team to take a page out of the Spurs book on winning championships and playing consistently, Manu Ginobili might as well have been the author on Sunday night.
“It was one of those nights, guys,” Rivers said. “We played awful. I thought they wanted to play. You know, the first quarter I thought was terrific. I thought the bench came in in the second quarter and just everybody went iso. There was no ball movement at all with that group. And then after that I thought the starters came back in, got us back into the game, and then the third quarter was awful for us. But I thought in the third quarter is when they stopped moving the ball, I thought offensively. And defensively we struggled all night. Ginobili was fantastic and [DeJuan] Blair in the fourth quarter was a one-man wrecking crew.’
And after Ginobili finished with 28 points and the Spurs laid down a 94-73 beatdown on the Celtics on Sunday night, Rivers gave his good friend and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich a hug and a pat of congratulations on the back. And it wouldn’t be surprising if Rivers said nice little player that No. 20 is.
And the fact of the matter is Ginobili has had little choice. With Tony Parker out indefinitely with a fractured bone in his right foot and Tim Duncan limited to just eight points, it’s been Ginobili’s team of late.
‘Manu’s been playing great you know for the last month,” Popovich said. “He’s basically taken over the team. he’s been the same Manu we’ve had when we won championships, so you know without Tony it’s really important for somebody to step up like that and he’s done it.”
And watching Ginobili get to the basket and drive with regularity and then be a ball hawk on defense, it was like Celtics fans were watching Rajon Rondo playing for the opposition for one night.
‘Defense, defense we were very good, we were very active, we shifted very well off of the guys that we had to shift off,” Ginobili said. “We played good defense on KG and Paul Pierce, nothing was easy for them and that was a big key. Offensively we made some key shots to maintain that lead so it was really always uphill for them, it was a great game.’
“Some of the plays he makes, he still suprises me,” said another veteran Antonio McDyess of Ginobili. “You can never count him out because he always comes up with big plays at all times. To be new on this team and still see him doing those types of things, its still great to watch.’
Ginobili was happy to avenge a loss in Texas in December to the Celtics.
‘Definitely,” Ginobili said of the satisfaction of getting payback. “That was the worst we had been probably, last time we played them. Now we are kind of looking better, looking like a team at least. We are playing hard, hustling, communicating, all that. We are still making a lot of mistakes but that’s part of the whole deal, but when you look at our faces going to the bench with subs and stuff it is totally different so I am glad to see that.’
Now it’s the Celtics who must go back to the drawing board.
“That’s basketball,” Rivers said. “It happens. I thought we wanted to, but I thought it did break down tonight. I just thought everybody just held onto the ball and was going to do it themselves. You know it’s funny, that’s all we worked on yesterday. So clearly that didn’t work. Playing against the Spurs, you know, it’s extra pass. You’re not going to beat them off the bounce. You’re just not. And it seemed like we were hell-bent in trying to do that.
“And it’s like Pop said before the game to me: ‘You’re not going to beat the Celtics off the bounce.’ And they didn’t. They moved the ball. They kept swinging it, kept passing it, kept making passes. They did what we were supposed to do.’