When Manu Ginobili injured his shooting hand against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the San Antonio Spurs’ chances to compete at a high level took a big hit.
They eventually lost that game in Minnesota as the team looked slow without one of their main offensive weapon.
However, since Ginobili’s injury, the Spurs bounced back and produced a pair of wins on back-to-back nights against the Golden State Warriors and the Dallas Mavericks.
It was not surprising to see the Spurs rally around without Manu, the team after all, have a good mix of veterans, leadership and young talent to win games, but the manner in which they won those games is something to look forward to.
With Manu out, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Richard Jefferson are providing much of the offensive load, but the bench have also responded well in Ginobili’s absence.
Against the Warriors, San Antonio seem a step slow for three quarters until two role players provided the spark they badly needed in the final quarter.
Trailing 88-80 with a little over six minutes left in the game, Spurs’ backup point guard T.J. Ford hit back to back baskets to start the comeback and then Danny Green showed a lot of hustle and displayed a great defensive effort against one of the league’s best scoring guard in Monta Ellis.
Ellis could be exhausted at that point, but watching Green deflect passes and chase loose balls to make the Warrior’s speedy guard work harder was a joy to watch.
Eventually, Ford’s timely baskets and play-making ability coupled with Green’s energetic play gave the Spurs the added punch they needed to win their first game without Ginobili.
But that’s not all, DeJuan Blair has been relentless on the boards and seem to mature this season. On one play against Golden State, four Warriors were trying to corral the rebound but Blair was right there in the middle to grab the ball to the delight of the Spurs fans.
Tiago Splitter has been showing some positive signs too, the Brazilian big man looked more comfortable in his second season and is slowly becoming a banger type of a player, providing good defense and timely rebounding.
And then on the second night of back-to-backs, against no less than the defending champion Mavericks, the Spurs jumped out on an early lead using their perimeter game and never looked back.
This time, Matt Bonner shot the lights out and Gary Neal made the most out of his first start of the season.
Duncan, Parker and Jefferson have provided their usual numbers and were able to get some rest while Ford and Green not as spectacular as the previous game, but had their shares during the teams first half surge.
With game in the bag early, coach Gregg Popovich had a long look at his young talents in preparation for the coming games. Kawhi Leonard in particular is doing what his supposed to do, and that is provide defense and rebounding. James Anderson on the other hand needs more consistency and confidence on his shot.
Replacing Ginobili is next to impossible, but for two games at least the Spurs have shown what was possible.
If there is a silver lining in Ginobili’s injury is that it happened early, he still has a lot of time to recover and get back into game shape later in the season.
It also gave way to other players to step up, get more acclimated with the systems, and gain their confidence as the season goes on.