Ginobili’s struggles a mystery to Spurs

Posted Friday, Jun. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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What’s the matter with Manu?

Manu Ginobili isn’t scoring. His game is now careless instead of famously creative. In these NBA Finals, where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade just delivered a forceful reminder in Game 4 about stars deciding this series, the San Antonio Spurs are still waiting on one of their biggest.

The impatience is starting to show.

“He’s having a tough playoffs, and hasn’t really found a rhythm or found his game yet,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Friday. “I think that he’s obviously not as confident as usual, and he knows full well he hasn’t performed the way he would like and the way he’s used to. But it’s simplistic to say, ‘What are we going to do to get him going?’ ”

Simplistic, maybe. But their prospects of winning a fifth title may hinge on that just.

Ginobili scored five points in 26 minutes in a 109-93 loss Thursday night, knotting the series heading into San Antonio’s final home game Sunday. He’s shooting just 34 percent against the Heat and is averaging 7.5 points, down from his 11.8 scoring average during the season.

Overall, Ginobili has shot 38 percent in the playoffs, a career worst. Only one of his last 11 tries from behind the 3-point line has connected.

It was so bad in Game 4 that even the Baseline Bums, a boisterous section of Spurs die-hards in the AT&T Center where the wily Ginobili is most beloved, yelled for the Argentine to quit jacking up shots.

Ginobili seems to be getting fed up, too. He looked bothered by questions about his persistent struggles after shooting 1 for 5 on Thursday night and tying his third-lowest scoring game in 21 career Finals appearances.

The other time he managed just five points in the Game 2 in this same series.

“It’s not that I’ve scored 30 a game this year,” Ginobili said. “I’m surprised. I wish I could score more. But it’s not happening. I got to try to do other stuff. I’ve got to move the ball. If the shot is not falling, I’ve got to be sharp feeding the bigs and finding the shooters. I don’t have to force the issue. That’s not what I do. That’s not what I’m asked to do.”

Putting a finger on what Ginobili does has always been tough to define — a quality that has made him one of the NBA’s most entertaining players the past 11 years. At his most dazzling he’s a fearless attacker, game-winning marksman, uncanny improviser and a master of falling-down shots that defy belief.

In Game 1, Ginobili perfectly bounced a pass to Tony Parker between the legs of Miami’s Norris Cole — while Cole had his back turned and running. The brilliant delivery was vintage Ginobili, but his performance the rest of this series has been otherwise forgettable.

“He’s going to get himself going or he won’t,” Popovich said. “He knows that he’s got to play better for us to be successful.”

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