Well we are getting to the half-way point of my favorite Manu playoff games ever. I have to admit, the back half of these (#8-12) was tough for me to come up with an order for. Most of this is because I picked those games because they have intangible qualities that, to me, best represent the kind of player that Manu has been for his career. He didn’t necessarily have to have played all that well in that game nor did that game have to be all that important; the game just had to have that Manurific moment in it for me.
Well from here on out, the games that I hold dearly to my Manu-erotic heart are games that he was pretty much incredible in. Thus, with much anticipation, here are #6 and 7 in my list of the Manuest games ever Ginobilied.
#7 2005 Western Conference First Round vs Denver Game 3
This is the first game where Manu showed to me he was a superstar.
Up to this point in his career, Manu was great at providing that jolt that the team needed in short bursts. If they needed a steal here or a three-pointer there, Manu would be able to provide it but he had yet to show that he could operate as the focal point of their offense. Sure, the ’05 season had shown that he was capable of more but Manu needed to replicate it in the playoffs.
Then this game (and season) happened. Timmy struggled as he was still coming back from his ankle injury sustained late in the season. Tony Parker was still very inconsistent. Thus the Spurs found themselves down early in a hostile environment against a lower seed that had already stolen home court and wasn’t afraid of them.
Then Manu and his glorious 2005 hair came in and gave the Spurs what they needed. However, whereas ’03 and ’04 Manu might give them a great six minute stretch, this Manu was the superstar the team needed to win a critical road game against a physical young team. With the Spurs struggling early, he’s the one who stabilized them and got them back in the game in the first quarter. Then with the rest of the crew still shooting blanks, Manu continued to dominate, giving us a strong half-time lead with his 19 points.
Manu lays it in as Nene, Marcus Camby, and Kenyon Martin gaze lovingly at his hair.
However, Denver was not going away and after trailing by nine, they would cut into the lead in the third quarter, making this into a tense affair. And there was a vintage drive (is it really vintage if it happened in the third year of his career?) by Manu, taking the contact and finishing the layup to give us some breathing room again.
Eventually, Tim Duncan and Robert Horry woke up and got things going in the fourth quarter, but still the two most memorable plays of the game were from Manu. With two minutes left, Denver had cut the lead down to four and the ball was in Timmy’s hands near the three point line. Manu got the handoff and casually pulled up for a gutsy three to give the Spurs a seven point lead.
Then with the game pretty much in hand, Manu was running out the clock on his incredible performance that had nearly single-handedly put the Nuggest down. Manu took the ball from Timmy at the top of the key and, with his luxurious ’05 hair waving gloriously through the night, drove down the middle into three Nuggets (Greg Buckner, Carmello Anthony, and Kenyon Martin). No doubt frustrated by the beating Manu had administered to them, Buckner and Melo flagrantly fouled him, one with a stealthy punch disguised as a swipe at the ball and one with a shove in the air. Hell, Manu had already been hit so hard on that play that Kenyon Martin (notorious goon) seemed to think better of adding to the beating.
Manu’s hair reacts to the foul, rendering Kenyon Martin speechless with awe.
Well, the Nuggets may have shown their fake toughness on that play but Manu didn’t whine or complain. After holding his nose for a bit, he calmly got back up and without a word, went to the line to ice the game that he had dominated. The crowd booed him, George Karl maid some idiotic comments to the media, but Manu had just completed his first domination of a playoff game. Great stuff.
#6 2005 Western Conference Semifinals vs Seattle Game 5
The only reason this game is not higher is because the stakes were not as high as some others. With that said, this is still probably Manu’s most dominant playoff performance.
39 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 17 freakin trips to the free throw line, four three pointers…Manu was everywhere this game imposing his will. For the prior eight games, Pop had moved him to the bench but now the Sonics had come back to tie the series and Pop realized that he needed the Manu burst earlier than usual. So he put him back in the starting lineup.
And wow he was incredible. His game against Denver was steady dominance but in this game he was a whirlwind wreaking havoc on everyone. He opened up the game with a ferocious drive through the teeth of the defense for a huge slam. He had a ridiculous array of layups after slicing every which way to get to the basket. He kept the Sonics at arm’s reach for most of the first half with a couple of threes. However, the game was tied at 50 apiece at half-time as Ray Allen (curse Ray Allen) kept the Sonics in it.
Pictured above was Manu’s most relaxed move of the game.
Somehow, a much less talented Sonics team was believing that they could pull off the upset. The Spurs were playing well but couldn’t put any distance between themselves and Seattle. A series that had started as a laugher had suddenly started giving me some mild heart palpitations. Were they going to blow it??!
And just like that, six minutes into the third, the Spurs were up 74-58. Manu basically laid waste to the Sonics, shoving all of their belief back down their throats. Manu had 14 points and 3 assists in that span, and completely picked them apart. He hit two threes, got fouled on a three, absolutely dissected the Sonics interior defense with pinpoint passes to Nazr Mohammed, and hit a ridiculous, fall away, one-handed floater while having a behemoth like Danny Fortson slam into his midsection.
This picture should reinforce how epic a shot Manu made while being body slammed by this guy.
Manu has this way about him of having these bursts that leave the other team in flames in mere minutes. This is probably my favorite of those bursts because of how in control of all aspects of the game he was. The Denver game may have been his first fully dominant playoff game. He may have had dominant games in more critical moments in later years (and later in ’05 as well). But this is still his most dominant game of his career.
Also the quintessential Manu roar was from this game.
Hopefully, I’ll have the next couple of this list up soon! Thanks for reading!