SAN ANTONIO -- Manu Ginobili dribbled past the gigantic Spurs logo near the Dallas Mavericks bench with 8.6 seconds left to play headed toward Wesley Matthews, as LaMarcus Aldridge posted near the top of the key with Maxi Kleber guarding.
Two steps into the drive, "I thought I had him," Ginobili said.
The 18,418 fans on hand to witness Saturday knew it for sure once the ball dropped through the cylinder with 3.5 ticks left to cap a 13-0 run over the final 4:11 that propelled the San Antonio Spurs to a 98-96 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
"Just tried to attack, draw a foul, make something happen," Ginobili said. "I thought we were gonna post up [LaMarcus Aldridge], but I think it was a good idea because when you post somebody up, it's hard to control the clock. So, for that last play, it's better to be facing the clock, and know when you can attack. I tried to use the most seconds possible to try to take the last shot. I just went hard. I really don't know what happened. I know I had Matthews on my side. I tried to go as hard as I could."
Ginobili with game-winning layup
Tied at 96-96, the Spurs' Manu Ginobili holds on to the ball to run the clock out and then lays the ball in for the win.
In blowing past Matthews for the final points of the night, the 40-year-old Ginobili nailed a game-winning bucket at the AT&T Center for the team's second consecutive appearance in the venue. Ginobili drained a high-arcing 3-pointer on Dec. 8 at the AT&T Center with five seconds left to play that led San Antonio past the Boston Celtics 105-102.
"Man, with Manu, when it's crunch time, I think he's going to make everything," said point guard Dejounte Murray. "That's just Manu. Manu's gonna Manu."
The Spurs Spurred, too, with their characteristic pesky defense; especially over the last 4:11, after coach Gregg Popovich expressed at the half the need to secure stops. Murray said that Popovich "preached to us that we needed to get stops." The coach explained that on any given night a team is going to make and miss shots, "but the one thing you can do is play defense every night," Murray said.
So over the course of San Antonio clawing back from an 11-point deficit over the final 4:11, the Spurs forced a total of six turnovers in the fourth quarter to go with three steals and a block. The club managed to pull off the comeback without the help of its two best defenders in Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps tendinopathy recovery) and Danny Green (groin), as well as point guard Tony Parker, who is still working his way back into the lineup after surgery to repair a ruptured quadriceps tendon.
The matchup against the Mavericks represented the second of a back-to-back, and Popovich said before Friday's loss to the Houston Rockets that he'd hold out Leonard and Parker in those situations for the foreseeable future.
The Spurs connected on just 38.1 percent from the floor in the opening half, and hit the locker rooms at intermission trailing 53-43, after allowing Dallas to connect on 53.5 percent from the floor and 50 percent from deep.
Ginobili pointed out poor decision making and miscommunication on defense as the culprits of San Antonio's struggles against the Mavericks, and the two certainly played a role in Friday's loss at Houston too.
"It's basketball," Popovich said. "Sometimes your shots go in, sometimes they don't. But I thought we were relatively lethargic to start as far as execution on both ends. But it picked up. I'm happy for them because they kept pounding the rock, they never gave in. We found a group that played well defensively down the stretch, and it won us the game."
But by the 7:55 mark of the third quarter, it appeared Dallas would turn the game into a blowout, as Matthews hit a fadeaway to put the Mavericks ahead by 67-51, the largest lead of the game.
"We just did in one quarter everything we should've done the whole game," said Davis Bertans, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. "We fought so hard, and luckily came up with the win. I think we deserved it in the end."
Ginobili played just four minutes in the fourth quarter, subbing in for Patty Mills with 1:08 left to play. Within 10 seconds of entering the game, Ginobili dished an assist to Aldridge for a hook shot that pulled the Spurs to within two points (96-94).
Down the stretch, the Mavericks connected on just 6 of 18 from the floor and 2 of 8 from range as the Spurs outscored them 27-16.
"Very slow start. Very poor defensive performance," Ginobili said of San Antonio's first half. "But fighting through it got us back into the game. Sounds pretty easy, but it's not. When we bring that aggressiveness, and we play the way we played in the fourth quarter, everything gets easier. We are not getting that consistency yet. Hopefully we get it back soon because we are not gonna go that far playing only one half. We are proud of this win, not proud of the way we played. But today, it was enough. Hopefully we go from here and learn from our mistakes."