It’s pretty easy to look back on the 2017-2018 San Antonio Spurs season as a lost one. The Spurs didn’t win 50 games and were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round with just one postseason victory.
But just because the Spurs didn’t have a chance to win a championship without Kawhi Leonard doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth watching the team play night in, night out.
The Spurs embraced a different kind of underdog role, one that had them on the outside of the playoff picture late in the season and saw San Antonio make a run with quality wins over solid teams.
Gregg Popovich’s brilliance as a coach got a team to the playoffs that was never supposed to function the way that it did. The Spurs were built and designed to function with Kawhi at the center. And they made the playoffs even without him.
As a result, everyone grew. Kyle Anderson, Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, and even LaMarcus Aldridge all grew into better players.
And boy did Manu Ginobili put on a show this year.
Let’s count down the 10 best plays that we’ll remember from the 2017-2018 season.
Best of the rest:
I’m probably one of the few people who thinks this but I will always remember the close loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in December as an incredible accomplishment. The Spurs lost 90-87 but were short-handed in the second half more than usual. This game was the first of a back-to-back and the second game was at home. So after Kyle Anderson got hurt, the Spurs rolled out these five against OKC’s superstar squad: Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans, and Brandon Paul.
And then there’s this Manu Ginobili play that was meant to be a pass to LaMarcus Aldridge but ended up as a three-pointer. What makes this play weird is that the New York Knicks played this off as if it was a live ball that didn’t go down… and it nearly worked!
Don’t worry, there’s going to be plenty more Manu in the Top 10.
10. Danny Green chases down Paul George
Jonathon Simmons made the chase-down block his calling card in his time with the Spurs. But after he left in free agency, someone had to take up the mantle. And that someone was Danny Green, who’s now spending his prime as a great two-way player and much more than a three-point specialist.
9. Dejounte slams the Cavs
Last season, everyone saw flashes of what a special player Dejounte Murray could be. While I was saying to people calling for him to start already, “Let’s put on the breaks,” Murray was full speed ahead, proving all his doubters (including myself) wrong.
He developed much quicker than people envisioned, not just from a point guard standpoint, but from a rebounding standpoint. Murray became a monster on the boards immediately this season and it’s going to serve as a valuable part of his game the rest of his career.
Murray had a game to be proud of when the Spurs hosted the Cavaliers this season, and he put an exclamation point on the win with an emphatic slam.
Even Murray’s mentor, LeBron James, gave him some love for the way he played in that game.
8. Manu dunks on the Kings
Here we go. You want some Manu highlights? We’ll give you some Manu highlights.
I loved it when the Spurs played the Sacramento Kings this year because I could make senior league jokes about two men in their 40s playing big minutes when Manu and Vince Carter were both on the floor.
Vince can certainly fly but so can Manu, as he drove down the lane on this play and threw down a big dunk in the Spurs win.
7. Bertans facial vs. Grizzlies
Speaking of dunks, Davis Bertans is completely underrated for his versatility… until he does something like this:
Yes, he’s a good defender and three-point shooter. But sometimes you forget that the kid’s got hops.
6. Huge comeback to beat the Thunder
Despite the injuries and despite the fact that the Thunder signed Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to help Russell Westbrook this season, the Spurs still had their number. And it showed early in the season when the Silver and Black spotted OKC a 41-18 lead… and then came back to win it.
The turnaround from being down 23 in the second quarter to being tied going into the fourth had even Gregg Popovich flummoxed and smiling when he talked to Doris Burke before the final frame.
5. Manu beats the Mavs
There are a few Manu games from this season that most will remember for a long time. But this game against the Dallas Mavericks probably falls under the radar for a lot of people.
The game was on a Saturday night in December against a rival but a lottery team that was tanking all year. Still, the Spurs were down 11 before going on a 13-0 run to end the game and pull out the win.
And, of course, it was Manu Ginobili that put the Spurs over the top for the victory.
4. Rudy Gay flies for the alley-oop
Ok, so this was a Rudy Gay dunk but it was Manu Ginobili throwing it up for him. Can’t get away from Manu on this list.
Watching highlights like this, it’s a shame that we were denied the opportunity to see Kawhi and Rudy play together. Hopefully we’ll still get that chance next season, because while Gay was a risk coming off an Achilles injury, he turned out to be well worth it.
3. Assist of the Year
If you watch Spurs games on Fox Sports Southwest and KENS 5 throughout the season, you know something that Sean Elliott harps on sometimes: Young teams with nothing to lose are often dangerous.
Well, there were times when the Spurs played like that had nothing to lose this season because of the lineups and situations they were put in. And sometimes you get something special out of that, like this play. It looked like the Spurs were more likely to turn the ball over on this steal and fast break.
But Kyle Anderson threw up a prayer and Davis Bertans answered it.
2. Bringin’ the Grandpa Juice to beat the Celtics
As the playoffs continue, this win over the Boston Celtics looks all the more impressive.
In early December, on KENS 5, the Spurs hosted the team with the best record in the NBA. It looked like San Antonio wouldn’t be able to pull this one out without Kawhi back yet as his return seemed imminent… but Manu had other ideas.
I love that Manu matched up with Jayson Tatum. While Tatum’s been tearing it up in the playoffs this year as a 20-year-old. He was only 19, checking 40-year-old Manu as the old man buried the game-winner.
1. Uno Mas Manu
What more can be said about Game 4 of the Spurs’ series against the Golden State Warriors? It was heavy with emotion with Pop absent from the sidelines following the death of his wife. And many went in thinking it might be the last game that they’d ever see Manu Ginobili play at the AT&T Center.
And if it was the last time in San Antonio for Manu (which many at KENS 5 don’t believe it will be), he certainly went out with bang. In the final minutes, Manu scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and the last five for the Spurs.
It was enough for Spurs fans all over the world to say to the Argentinian legend, “Uno Mas Manu.”