The Ice Manu
One giant leap for Manu, one small step for the Spurs.
SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs used to witness moves like this all the time. A lanky swingman would penetrate the lane, leave his feet, cup the ball in one hand as if it were a grapefruit, and finish with a stylish shot that left opponents aghast and fans amazed.
They called him The Iceman. George Gervin.
Manu Ginobili is not as smooth as Ice, but he is at times just as effective. Tuesday, in a must-have Game 5 against the Seattle SuperSonics, was one of those times. With Tim Duncan struggling to find his range and Tony Parker just plain struggling, Ginobili scored a playoff-career-high 39 points to lead the Spurs to a 103-90 victory at the SBC Center. San Antonio leads the series 3 games to 2.
"My biggest concern was just to attack, draw fouls and kick the ball to the open man," said Ginobili, who returned to the starting lineup for the first time since the Spurs' first-round opener against Denver. "I wanted to bring a lot of juice and energy."
As his he-man line suggests, Ginobili brought that and more. Remarkably efficient in his 36 minutes, he shot 10-of-15 from the floor and 15-of-17 from the stripe, all while dishing out a team-high six assists.
In a performance that included several give-that-man-a-hand moments, Ginobili outdid himself midway through the third quarter. Driving by Ray Allen from the right wing and leaping around Danny Fortson in the paint, Ginobili, holding the ball widely in his left hand, pumped once and then sank a soft five-footer while being fouled.
The move came near the end of a sensational run in which Ginobili almost single-handedly dismantled the Sonics. Having scored 19 points by halftime, he had a hand in 20 of the Spurs' first 24 points of the third. Sinking two 3-pointers and going to the hole with abandon, Ginobili scored 14. He also threw three bullet passes that found Nazr Mohammed beneath the basket for easy put-ins. Accomplishing all that in just 6½ minutes, Ginobili turned a 50-50 halftime tie into a commanding 16-point advantage for the Spurs.
"He's a fearless guy going into the paint," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said.
Kind of like The Iceman.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich (left) and official Blane Reichelt apparently saw eye-to-eye on a call made by Reichelt during the fourth quarter of the Spurs' Game 5 win on Tuesday.
Five blocks and 19 boards for the Wallaces put the Pistons one game from a Heat date.
Finishing a playoff game minus-18 in rebounding is bad enough. "You get out-rebounded by 18, you're getting outplayed. It's as simple as that," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. But it gets worse for Indiana when you separate offensive and defensive rebounds.
The Pistons pounded the Pacers by 19 (86-67) in part because Detroit attempted 19 and made 12 more shots than Indiana. The Pistons collected 22 offensive rebounds; they had one fewer offensive rebound than Indiana had defensive boards. The extra possessions led to 25 second-chance points for Detroit, which has an opportunity to end the series Thursday night in Indiana.
Tayshaun Prince led the way for Detroit with 12 rebounds (five offensive) and Ben Wallace added 11 boards (six at his end). Even Darko Milicic came off the bench late and put back a miss. The Pistons were quicker to the ball and, frankly, displayed more desire than the Pacers, who moved like they'd already played four games Tuesday when Detroit showed up.
According to Jermaine O'Neal, the Pistons kept O'Neal's man, Rasheed Wallace, on the perimeter, thus drawing Jermaine away from the basket. He also said Indiana's guards are getting caught on Detroit's big men when they rotate to defend the Pistons' pick and roll.
It didn't help that Indiana's Jeff Foster played only 17 minutes with foul trouble. "We have to stay in there and rebound the ball," O'Neal said. "We cannot run a break or get into a set without the basketball. We have to get that into our minds if we're going to have a chance to win at Conseco."
Michael Smith, from The Palace of Auburn Hills
He didn't take a shot, but Carlos Arroyo changed the game in the second quarter.
The Pistons' backup point guard reentered the game with Detroit trailing, 31-29. By the end of the half, the Pistons had a seven-point lead (42-35) and were in the midst of a 30-4 run over 12:33 of the second and third quarters, sparked by the energy the Puerto Rican national team star provided off the bench. In a burst of spectacular point play, Arroyo had four assists, including two to Ben Wallace for dunks. Between his second and third dimes, he took a charge from counterpart Jamaal Tinsley.
Arroyo has played a combined 30 minutes the past two games after logging a "DNP-Coach's Decision" in Games 2 and 3. Pistons coach Larry Brown, who in the past two games (both Pistons victories) has gone to his bench more than he did earlier in the series, said Arroyo has earned the right to play, though Brown prefers Lindsay Hunter's defense.
"I thought [Arroyo's] impact on the game was tremendous," Brown said. "He got us running and got us easy shots. He gave us a chance to rest people. Two games in a row he's made contributions. You'd look at the stat sheet, and you can't tell that."
Michael Smith, from The Palace of Auburn Hills
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio: Of course.
Play of the Day
My buddy Scott is a list maker. When his life gets chaotic, he makes lists of things to do; helps him organize his thoughts, gets his motor running.
The first item on every list is the same three-word mantra: "Get it together." From this all other things flow.
Scott will tell you, Gregg Popovich better be making a list right now. Yeah, his club took control of the series Tuesday night, but if they have any serious thoughts about winning the Western Conference, and if they're planning on challenging Miami or Detroit even a little, they'd better get it together but quick.
They're up 3-2 on a Sonics team without Rashard Lewis and Vlad Radmanovic? That ain't gonna do. That's just one strong Ray Allen fourth quarter away from us all writing "What's Wrong With The Spurs?!" pieces.
Duncan's shooting free throws like he's doing a one-man dinner-theater tribute to Shaquille. Parker's alternating hot shooting nights with timid, clanging performances.
I'm telling you, if they think that'll play against Nash or Dirk, if they think they can take that into Dwyane's house, they better make a list.
One reason Indiana is struggling to score in the postseason is Rick Carlisle's stubborn insistence on calling plays for Jermaine O'Neal. O'Neal's shooting obviously has been affected by his injured shoulder -- he hasn't shot over 40 percent in any game this series and is at 35 percent for the postseason.
Yet when Game 5 started, the Pacers acted as though the injury had never happened: Indiana ran four post-ups for O'Neal in the first four minutes. For the night, he led the team in field-goal attempts with 14.
The Pacers' force-feeding of O'Neal has also distracted the coaching staff from what should be its most important task: Figuring out ways to get shots for the other guys. With O'Neal shooting such a woeful percentage, it's Indiana's only chance of staying alive. One hopes the prospect of elimination will increase the urgency of this mission for the Pacers' coaching staff.
Dallas coach Avery Johnson befuddled the Suns in Game 4 by recycling the "let-Yao-and-Tracy-get-their-points" strategy from the Houston series.
He decided the Mavs weren't going to switch on the pick-and-roll. Whoever was guarding Nash just had to fight through the pick, and if he couldn't get through it, then the Mavs would take their chances with leaving Nash wide open.
It's not going to work again because the element of surprise is gone, so Johnson's predicament for Game 5 is to come up with something new. While I don't know what Johnson's game plan will be, what I do know is this: For a coach who took so much heat in the first week of the postseason, he's done a very impressive job.
Regardless of how Dallas fares during the rest of this series, or for the rest of the playoffs, let's take it easy on the new guy in charge. After a shaky start, it's safe to say Avery Johnson is starting to get the hang of this playoff coaching thing.
Of the 123 previous playoff series that have been tied 2-2 after four games, 103 (84 percent) have gone to the Game 5 winner.
So, based on playoff history, the Pacers and Sonics each have about a 16 percent (one-in-six) chance of taking Games 6 and 7 and winning the series.