Playing without a team's heart and soul, without its main weapon on both ends of the court, provides an opportunity. A team can take this opportunity and feel sorry for its bad luck and dwell on the past, or a new leader can emerge, the rest of the team can use the chance to prove that they themselves are capable of picking up the slack until the leader returns. The Spurs, in true championship form, have chosen the latter, and while Tim Duncan’s injured knee and ankle are healing, the rest of the NBA has been served notice that the team is stronger than its individual parts.
As luck would have it, the first team that San Antonio would have to face without Duncan was their division rivals, the Dallas Mavericks. The Spurs are no strangers to adversity, but they have been lucky that Duncan has remained fairly injury-free during his career. They are also lucky to have a sixth man, who could start for probably any team in the league at their disposal when another star goes down. Manu Ginobili stepped up his game against the Mavs, scoring 37 points in his starting role to lead all scorers in the game, while also contributing with 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and even a block for good measure…and he wasn’t 100% either! Ginobili was playing with a sore finger from the previous game and was a game-time decision himself. Tony Parker also played well, scoring 23 points, and Michael Finley chipped in 14. Although the final score was 97-95, the Spurs held a comfortable 11 point lead in the fourth quarter, before a rally made the game a nail-biter.
Against the Utah Jazz a couple of nights later, Ginobili went back to the bench, but equaled, if not surpassed his previous performance by scoring 37 again! 17 of them came from the free throw line, as his penetration pressured the defense all night. The speedy Argentine also grabbed 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and made three steals. The game was a team effort as Matt Bonner, Michael Finley, and Tony Parker all scored in double digits for San Antonio. The win allowed the Spurs to remain unbeaten at home this season, and ran their win total to 17-3. Unlike the previous game in which the Spurs tried to give a sizeable lead away late, Utah led most of the way, until late in the fourth, when the Spurs free throws and three pointers, proved too much for the Jazz.