The sixth man battle was certainly expected to be one of the keys in the Western Conference Finals considering Manu Ginobili and James Harden are two of the best players off the bench in the NBA. The battle didn't disappoint in Game 1 on Sunday night, as Ginobili turned back the clock to take over the game and lead San Antonio to victory.
Ginobili played 34 minutes for the Spurs, scoring a team-high 26 points on 14 attempts from the field as the catalyst for the San Antonio offense. It was one of his best games of the season, and, as Matthew Tynan pointed out over at SB Nation's Pounding the Rock, it came at exactly the right time.
Each facet of his game was on display in Game 1, but it was the scoring that turned out to be the most crucial element. Ginobili has made a career out of timely plays. Without them there would most likely be fewer banners hanging in the AT&T Center rafters. But here he was again as we'll always picture him, twisting and turning his way to the hoop, lining up and uncoiling on that funky-looking jump shot. The word ‘competitor' is most likely overused at times, but Manu defines the term.
Down 71-62 heading into the fourth quarter, Ginobili took the game over at a time when his team desperately needed him to do so. His 11 points in the final frame helped pull the Spurs out of a cold spell the No. 1 seed just couldn't seem to shake. San Antonio shot less than 39 percent from the floor through the first three quarters, but when the home team finally broke loose there was little Oklahoma City could do to stop it.
It was vintage Ginobili. Although the Thunder will likely try to limit his scoring output for the remainder of the series, he's shown Harden that he's not quite ready to pass the torch as the NBA's best sixth man. Whether Ginobili is putting up a plethora of points or driving and dishing, it's clear that he'll be an immensely important piece of the Spurs' offense this series.