Hi all, I started my list of my twelve favorite Manu playoff games a few days ago but sadly I only got through two of them. That tactic may be brilliant at building up suspense but I dare not string y’all along for much longer. Sooo here are a couple more of his games.
#10: 2013 Western Conference Semi-Finals Vs Golden State Game 1
My #12 on this list was an epic double overtime game where Manu didn’t play that great but capped it off with a game-winner. Well my #10 is that other epic double overtime game where Manu didn’t play that great but capped it off with a game-winner.
But the real reason for this game being up here isn’t the game-winner. The bigger reason is that it exemplifies a quality that is intrinsic to who Manu is. He’s a guy who seems to really take his mistakes to heart. However, rather than get into his own head, he always channels his anger and unleash it on the opponent.
We’ve all seen it. Manu throws a wild pass away, throws his arms up in anger at himself, and then promptly takes a charge. Or he commits a dumb foul on one end, Pop chastizes him, Manu looks like he’s seething at himself, and then he breaks the offense and hits a tough three. It happens like clockwork. Manu has a blunder and then makes it a personal mission to rectify it while destroying the hearts of his opponents. This game just happens to have one of the best examples of this phenomenon.
The Spurs had already mounted an epic comeback, getting the game to overtime (and then to double overtime) after being down by sixteen with about 4 minutes left in the game. Now in double-overtime, the Spurs had the Warriors on the ropes. Danny Green had just hit a three with about a minute left to give us a five point lead. Steph Curry cut it to three about ten seconds later but the Spurs had the chance for another dagger.
Manu got the ball at the top of the key about 5-6 feet from the three point line to survey the floor. Ok. Winning time. Plenty of time on the shot-clock. Clearly the Spurs were about to run one of their pet plays to get a high qual—WHY THE HELL IS THE BALL IN THE AIR?????
Yeah Manu just launched. With 40 seconds left in a game where the Spurs had a three point lead and about 15 left on the shot-clock. From 6 feet behind the line. AFTER HESITATING (almost like he knew it was a bad shot). I mean he hesitated because even HE knew this was a terrible decision. Needless to say, this shot did not go in.
Well the Warriors got the rebound, scored quickly, got a stop, and Kent Bazemore got a fast-break reverse layup to put the Warriors back up one with under 4 seconds to play. And suddenly, this epic comeback seemed like it would be all for naught. And all I could think was “#$#%$@#@ MANU!” All that effort, and now the Spurs were gonna face a must-win in game 2 because of some poor execution down the stretch, mostly because of Manu.
But I should have known better. I mean this was Manu. He was going to get it back, it was just a question of how. And then Manu answered everything by hitting a ballsy HIGH-ARCING trey to put the Spurs back up two. I mean, that was one of those shots that as soon as it was up in the air, knowing who was shooting it and under what conditions, there was no doubt it was going in. As Pop said afterwards, “I went from trading him on the spot to wanting to cook him breakfast tomorrow.”
That is the story of Manu. Risk and reward. He screws up countless times where you just want to strangle him. And then he makes you forget the brain farts because his ferocious competitive nature completely overshadow any of his overzealous mistakes. Man, I love watching Manu.
#9: 2017 Western Conference Semi-Finals Vs Houston Game 5
Maybe I’m suffering from recency bias here but, man his performance against the Rockets in Game 5 this year was awe-inspiring. As a newly wed with a new puppy, I have found that I cannot scream after big Spurs plays anymore lest I face the wrath of my betrothed (I know this means the person I am engaged to but I rarely find ways to work this word into sentences so give me a break).
Well when Manu blocked James Harden to seal this game, I yelled and woke everyone up.
The Spurs were really up against it this game. Series tied at two games apiece. The Rockets shooters were rolling and James Harden was playing great. Kawhi, after dominating in the playoffs up to this point, looked banged up to start the game and then was lost for the game with a sprained ankle. Tony Parker was already lost for the season. Tim Duncan was already lost for the rest of eternity (this is still very sad for me). The concept of LaMarcus Aldridge as a clutch player was lost years ago. Nothing was looking good for the Spurs.
And then Manu came to the rescue (with some major help from Danny Green, Patty Mills, Jonathon Simmons).
Really this was a quintessential, late career Manu game. He had struggled all playoffs, reaching double figures once all playoffs long. He didn’t even score in the first four games against Memphis. Honestly, I no longer felt confident in what he could provide the team.
And yet here he was, in another in a long line of amazing Game 5 performances, doing his thing. There was a vintage dunk that had shades of his jam over Chris Bosh in 2014. There was the gutsy fourth quarter three pointer that Spurs fans have come to expect over the years. There was the tough, twisting layup with 30 seconds left over Clint Capella to send the game to overtime. There was Manu, with the ball in his 39 year old hands, controlling the offense in the team’s most pivotal game of the season.
But man, it was that block. This goes hand in hand with my point about who Manu is above, in my #10 game. Manu makes a mistake but will not dwell on it to the point of it affecting his game. And it will not affect his aggressiveness.
In this case, that mistake was 11 years ago and was the hugest gaffe of his career. Yup, his foul on the block attempt against Dirk in 2006. For anyone else, that play might have either defined their career or at least made them think twice before trying for a low percentage block in a critical moment of a tight playoff game, with the team up three.
Not Manu though. Manu doesn’t change how he approaches the game. When he sees a play he thinks is possible, he goes for it. And in this case, he saw James Harden. He’d scouted his shot mechanics so he knew where the ball was going to be. And he SNUFFED it out. Cleanly I might add. That was one of the best blocks I’ve seen in a critical playoff moment.
Manu, when you do retire, I will miss your seemingly out of nowhere heroics.
Thanks everybody and stay tuned for more of these!