Game 5 was a tale of two players.
One old, one young.
Manu Ginobili and Danny Green.
Give them the nod for being the primary parties responsible for getting the San Antonio Spurs to within one win of a fifth world championship.
The 114-104 win was a huge team effort — what Spurs victory isn’t? — but the feeling was clear after Game 5 that Ginobili and Green had delivered in a had-to-have-it home finale to the 2013 postseason.
So where to start?
OK, let’s go with the old guy.
Ginobili was left for dead after Game 4. At age 35, he had not shown the explosiveness that made him one of the world’s most electrifying players. The jumper was also on the fritz. He has millions in the bank, but he didn’t have enough to buy a bucket in the previous two games.
Then Sunday happened.
As scribes on both coasts and parts in between prepared Manu-flavored obituaries for two days, coach Gregg Popovich decided to go small and start the old war horse. And after the worst stretch of his postseason career, Ginobili looked nothing like a washed-up former All-Star. He showed that there is plenty of juice left in the tank — juice that will be needed if the Spurs are to close this thing out.
One day after addressing the possibility of retiring after 10 seasons, Ginobili delivered the way he has in the past. He swished his first jumper from the corner and scored seven points in the first five minutes, putting the struggles of this series behind him. In what could very well have been his last home game as a Spur, Ginobili provided a flashback to his younger days.
He finished with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 10 assists on a night when the Spurs shot 60 percent from the field. After he scored in the third quarter, 18,000 fans at the AT&T Center stood and chanted: “Manu! Manu!” The adoration didn’t go unnoticed.
“I was having a tough time scoring, and I needed to feel like the game was coming to me,” he said. “It felt great when I heard (the chants). To help the team get that 20-point lead, it was a much-needed feeling for this series.”
Then there was Danny Green.
With all due respect to Chuck Connors Person, the 25-year-old is making a case to be called the new Rifleman, at least for this postseason. This dude could work for the Department of Energy because he has provided proof that you can get what you need from alternate sources. Green continues to pick up the slack with his long-range marksmanship. This time he scored 24 points and knocked down a half-dozen 3-pointers.
“I can’t believe he’s still open,” Tony Parker said.
After the Heat closed to within eight points late, Green closed the door with a 3-pointer from the corner — his 25th of the series.
Green has been the feel-good story of this series. Twice released by the Spurs, the former Austin Toro has climbed off the scrap heap and become the team’s top perimeter option. And he’s also doing an admirable job of defending LeBron James on the other end.
One sequence in the second quarter illustrated Green’s importance to this offense. In a span of 101 seconds, he hit three big 3-pointers to push the Spurs’ lead to 15. While the Heat is understandably focused on limiting Tim Duncan and Parker, Green has consistently made them pay.
Green will be one of the league’s best bargains if he continues to light up defenses the way he has in the playoffs. He re-signed for three more seasons in the offseason. With the high salaries commanded these days, he is an absolute steal at $3.7 million next season and $4.02 in 2015.
“The whole season has made him more confident,” Popovich said. “He has been somebody who has gotten a lot of minutes and basically has a green light, and when you do it for 82 games, the only thing left is to see if you do it when the real lights come on. He’s pretty well answered that question.”
Now up 3-2, the Spurs are in the power position, even if they are going on the road for the end of the series. Ginobili and Green helped get them here. Let’s see if they can finish up and bring home another trophy.