With Manu Ginobili on the sidelines, the San Antonio Spurs have done a fairly decent job on keeping up with the rest of the league. However, they are now slowly experiencing the pain of playing without their emotional leader.
After losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs fall to 12-9, which is third in the Southwest Division but is only good for 8th place in the Western Conference.
And the schedule isn’t getting any easy either.
After tonight’s game in Memphis, the Spurs will play nine of their next twelve games on the road for the annual Rodeo Road Trip where they have a woeful 2-8 record.
It could be argued that with Manu healthy, the Spurs could have at least won a couple more games.
They have lost nine games so far and are struggling badly on the road, but are not being whooped in the ass so to speak.
In fact, most of the games they loss have gone down the wire where they had their chances of sneaking out a victory. However, their main problem is closing out games — and that is where the Spurs truly missed Manu.
Make no mistake about it, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are there to steady the Spurs as both players have played well under pressure, but it’s no secret that Ginobili is one of the best in end game situations.
His ability to make plays and craftiness is hard to replace, plus he is clutch too.
Without Ginobili, the Spurs offense lacked some teeth because they lost a player who can attack the basket with reckless abandon.
Nonetheless, injuries are a part of sports and all NBA teams are battling injuries of their own.
If there is any consolation to Manu’s injury, is that it came early and it gave other players a chance to prove themselves and learn the system faster.
With Manu out, the bulk of the Spurs offense fell on the shoulders of Duncan, Parker and Richard Jefferson, while they did a decent job at it, the absence of Ginobili may have made the Spurs tougher in the long run.
The Spurs’ bench have been a pleasant surprise, giving the team a huge lift.
Last night’s heartbreaking loss to the Mavericks provided a glimpse of the what the Spurs second-unit are capable of.
Tiago Splitter and Danny Green in particular have come out of their shells and are both playing with confidence.
Rookie Kawhi Leonard have been a mainstay at the starting lineup because of his defensive tenacity.
Of course the dynamics would change once Ginobili is back.
Green’a playing time would likely lessen and Leonard could head back to his off the bench role, but the thing is, these players have already earned coach Gregg Popovich’s trust and it will definitely make the Spurs deeper and stronger than most people expected.
Sure, Manu being hurt isn’t a good thing.
San Antonio is definitely a better team with him, but sometimes role players needed a break to prove their worth, luckily for the Spurs a lot of players have been stepping up in Ginobili’s absence and that makes the character of the team a whole lot better.
For now, the Spurs will have to wait and do their best to hold down the fort.
Should they continue to find ways to win while Ginobili is out, then other teams should watch out when the Argentine guard is back in silver and black.