Can the Spurs really cope without Ginobili?
Despite the numbers suggesting that the San Antonio Spurs are more than capable of progressing without injured star Manu Ginobili, his absence is undoubtedly a major blow for their NBA title aspirations.
The Argentine received the news that he will miss the remainder of the regular season and beyond with a hamstring injury, putting his fitness under the spotlight ahead of the play-offs.
Yet despite the Spurs already showing this season they can continuously find a way without their main stars, it is Ginobili’s ability in clutch situations and his work on the defensive end that sets him apart from his team-mates.
Both Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have missed large parts of the season with their own injury issues, yet the Spurs still top the Western Conference with a 55-19 record for the season.
Ginobili has already been absent for 14 games this year, in which San Antonio have gone 10-4. They boast similarly impressive records without Parker and Duncan, leading many to believe that the outcome will be no different this time round.
What it does prove is that the Spurs aren’t reliant on any one player, and play some of the most exciting basketball in the league with their ball movement and ability to score from all angles.
Coach Gregg Popovich has a talented supporting cast to rely on, with the likes of Danny Green, Stephen Jackson and Gary Neal set to play more important roles over the forthcoming weeks.
However, that is a disservice to arguably the league’s best sixth man. Ginobili has an ability to deliver when it really matters, something that the Spurs have lacked over the last two games.
Against the Miami Heat, Duncan’s missed jump-shot allowed Chris Bosh to knock down a three which ultimately sealed the win. Parker had a chance to swing it back in San Antonio’s favour but was off the mark as the clock expired.
The following night, it was the same outcome, this time against the Memphis Grizzlies. Mike Conley had a game to remember as his lay-up put his team ahead, before Parker again missed a fade-away jumper.
There is of course no guarantee that Ginobili would have made either shot, but his mere presence on the court could have allowed Parker a clearer look instead of being constantly double-teamed.
Despite being on the wrong side of 30, Ginobili is averaging 11.9 points and 4.6 assists this season. The Spurs can certainly survive without him, but winning a championship without him is a completely different story.