Spurs' Ginobili shaping up nicely Spurs' Ginobili shaping up nicely
By Jeff McDonald
The passes come zipping from every direction, and in every way imaginable.
No look. Behind-the-back. Over-the-shoulder. In traffic. With English.
If there's one thing DeJuan Blair has learned early in his rookie season with the Spurs, it's that when Manu Ginobili is directing a fast break, expect the unexpected.
“He can throw it off his back, hit it off his foot,” Blair said. “He can do anything. He's amazing.”
In the Spurs' 117-99 trouncing of Minnesota on Tuesday night, Ginobili did everything but sell popcorn.
In what coach Gregg Popovich called one of his Argentine guard's best all-around games, Ginobili had 14 points, nine rebounds, 10 assists and three steals, narrowly missing the first triple-double of his career. Improbably, his overstuffed stat sheet didn't do justice to the havoc he wreaked on the Timberwolves.
With Ginobili in the lead, tossing the ball around the AT&T Center like a live grenade, the Spurs enjoyed a season-high 29 fast-break points en route to their ninth win in 11 games.
“We really moved the ball well,” Ginobili said. “When we do that, everybody feels good, and everybody hustles. It's a different mood.”
Spurs forward Richard Jefferson scored 24 points, a team-leading total that matched his second-best game of the season. Tim Duncan added a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double. Roger Mason Jr. had 18 points, including 10 in the second quarter as the Spurs (18-11) began to turn the game into a laugher.
All of it was obscured by Hurricane Manu.
There were times when it looked as if Ginobili had a homing device in the back of his head. He seemed bent on getting all of his teammates in on the tail end of a SportsCenter highlight.
In the first half, he hit a trailing Jefferson with a no-look touch pass for a dunk. After a steal, he found George Hill with a length-of-the-court, over-the-shoulder fling that, to the uninitiated, might have looked like an 80-foot hook shot that only went 60.
Later, he hit Blair with a behind-the-back job while falling out of bounds, the ball finding the Spurs' big rookie so unexpectedly that he was surprised he'd caught it, even after he did.
It was as if Ginobili were a Globetrotter, and the Timberwolves (7-25) were the Washington Generals.
“He has a lot of tricks in his bag,” Hill said. “When he's out running the break, you know to keep your head up. He'll throw it through his legs, with backspin. He throws all kinds of stuff.”
On nights like this, when Ginobili can dominate a game by making just five field goals, general manager R.C. Buford must feel like locking up him to a long-term contract extension — and signing Ginobili's pending twins for good measure.
Tuesday's performance was Ginobili's third good one in a row and one of the first times he looked more like the game-changing dervish he was earlier in his career, and not the injury-plagued player he's been for the past season and a half.
“He looked,” Popovich said, “like Manu.”
Ginobili's wrap-around to Blair gave him his season-high 10th assist with 6:02 to play, moving him as close as he'd ever been to a triple-double. Popovich left him in the game a little longer than usual to allow him to grab a 10th rebound.
Minnesota, which had shot below 40 percent for most of the game, responded by making four of its next five shots. With 4:52 left, Popovich pulled Ginobili aside and asked if he'd like to stick around for a chance to finish off the feat.
Ginobili declined. Even when it seemed as if he could do anything, it didn't mean he had to do everything.
“I guess the triple-double is a big deal in the States,” Ginobili said. “For me, it's not. I was not going to force it.”