Admittedly embarrassed by how he played against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, Spurs guard Manu Ginobili did Thursday night what he always has done throughout his long, stellar career.
He used the bad performance as motivation.
Ginobili bounced back resoundingly in Game 5 at the AT&T Center, finishing with 19 points, six assists and four rebounds in the Spurs' 117-89 rout of the Thunder.
Ginobili, who scored only five points in 11 minutes in the Silver and Black's 105-92 loss in Game 4, nailed 7 of 9 shots, including 3 of 4 from the 3-point line, while playing 21 minutes.
When Ginobili wasn't hitting long jumpers or getting to the basket with his serpentine moves, he was passing to open teammates. He was so active that he even accidentally slapped a startled Kevin Durantin the face as he tried to knock the ball loose from the league MVP. Ginobili was whistled for a foul, but Durant missed both free throws.
Ginobili is the Spurs' key reserve, but he's no ordinary backup player. He would be a starter on almost any other team in the NBA.
He really played great tonight, Spurs point guard Tony Parker said. He was aggressive shooting the ball, finding teammates and making important plays. We need that from him in every game if we want to go all the way. We need everyone to play well, and tonight Manu played well.
The victory gave the Spurs a 3-2 lead in the series. Game 6 is Saturday night in Oklahoma City, where the Silver and Black have lost nine in a row.
Ginobili pretty much embodied the steely determination the Spurs demonstrated in getting back on track after losing two in a row to the Thunder, whodropped the first two games of the series in San Antonio by 17 and 35 points.
Ginobili: 'Today we were just sharp'
Ginobili put the victory in perspective neatly with his usual incisive analysis.
Every night is different, Ginobili said. We reacted better to the loss than they reacted to the win. We were upset. We were disappointed at what we did in Oklahoma City. We came with more fire. We made a lot of shots 13 for 26 on threes.
Basically, what we did over there, they did here. I don't think it was a matter of lineups. Today, we just played well. Whoever was on the court, that was the key.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made a lineup change for Game 5, starting backup Matt Bonner at center instead of Tiago Splitter. Popovich made another change at the start of the second half, subbing Boris Diaw for Bonner.
Any resemblance between the Spurs team that was blown out in Oklahoma City and the one that beat the Thunder by 28 points Thursday was purely coincidental.
Ginobili was asked what the difference was in Game 5.
Probably they were not as aggressive, and we were, he said. We stepped up. We were very flat (in OKC). We were slow. Rotations were always late. We fouled too much. It was basically opposite games. As I said, what they did there, we did here.
Today we were just sharp. We were smart, and that's what we were talking about. We tried to do that. It's the only way we have a shot. If we just want to play crazy and take quick shots, they're going to beat us. They are more athletic, they are more talented.
Ginobili made NBA debut with Spurs in October 2002
Thunder coach Scott Brooks was effusive in his praise of Ginobili, who turns 37 in July.
We have to defend him better, Brooks said. He's a future Hall of Famer. He's good. He's one of those guys like they have on the team, he's ageless. He comes in with great energy, he plays hard, he plays winning basketball. He's a winner every side of the ball.
He competes on the defensive end. Every loose ball, he thinks it's his. Every opportunity to drive, he's going to challenge our feet and drive around us. We have to make sure that we are into him and stop him from taking straight-line drives to the basket. That's easier said than done, but we've got to be able to do that in order to stop him.
A native of Argentina, Ginobili was selected by the Spurs in the second round of the 1999 NBA draft with the 57th overall pick. He played professionally in Europe before making his NBA debut with San Antonio in October 2002.
Ginobili has won three NBA titles with the Silver and Black, and has teamed with Parker and Tim Duncan to win more playoff games (112) than any other trio in NBA history.
With the Spurs one victory away from advancing to the Finals for the second year in a row, Ginobili may get a shot at winning another ring before he retires.
But first, the Silver and Black must get past a Thunder team loaded with talent. If the trend of the series continues, OKC will bounce back at home to set up a Game 7 showdown Monday night in San Antonio.
I never want to go seven games with anybody, Ginobili said. Of course, we're going to go there and try to play our best game and try to finish the series. But if it gets back here, and we have to play a Game 7, we'll do it.
Considering how the Thunder have manhandled the Spurs in Oklahoma City, you can pretty much count on the series going the distance.
Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Western Conference finals
(Spurs lead series 3-2)
Game 1: Spurs 122, Thunder 105,May 19, San Antonio
Game 2: Spurs 112, Thunder 77, May 21, San Antonio
Game 3: Thunder 106, Spurs 97, Sunday, OKC
Game 4: Thunder 105, Spurs 92, Tuesday, OKC
Game 5: Spurs 117, Thunder 89, Thursday, San Antonio
Game 6: Spurs at Thunder, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Game 7, if necessary: Thunder at Spurs, Monday, 8 p.m.