Heat-Spurs Game 5 preview: Man up, Manu

Heat-Spurs Game 5 preview: Man up, Manu
June 16, 2013, 11:15 am
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SAN ANTONIO — Manu Ginobili will be 36 at the end of next month, and is no different than most NBA players who ponder what a future away from the league might look like. 

Retirement is always an option, but if Ginobili is going to walk away from the game, this is not the way to do it. 

He has been in a word, awful, in the Finals for the Spurs. 

The two-time All-Star has been an all-dud. He averaged 11.8 points per game this season, his lowest scoring average since his rookie season. And in the Finals, he has averaged just 7.5 points while shooting 34.4 percent from the field.

But as poorly as Ginobili has shot the ball, his teammates remain confident that his breakthrough game is coming -- maybe even tonight if they're lucky. 

"I have a lot of confidence in Manu," said Spurs guard Tony Parker. "He came through for us all those years, and I just have confidence in him. You have to have faith he's going to have a big game. So me, I just trust him. Because I've been playing with him for so long."

And while it's all good for the Spurs to be confident in Ginobili to get it going, there's no need to sugarcoat the obvious which is up to this point in the Finals, Ginobili is not playing well enough for the Spurs to win their fifth NBA title. 

"He's having a tough playoffs, and he hasn't really found a rhythm or found his game yet," said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. "I think that he's obviously not as confident as usual, and he knows full well that he hasn't performed the way he would like and the way he's used to. But it's simplistic to say, what are we going to do to get him going? He's going to get himself going or he won't."

Popovich added, "He knows that he's got to play better for us to be successful."

Indeed, Ginobili's play will be a major indicator of which team emerges victorious in Game 5. Here are some other factors that are likely to weigh in on the game's outcome. 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Heat forced San Antonio into the adjustment game less than a minute into Game 4, when Spurs big man Tiago Splitter found himself matched up with Dwyane Wade. The Spurs countered Miami's small ball lineup by using Boris Diaw, who may get the starting nod tonight in place of Splitter.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Tony Parker vs Mario Chalmers. Parker acknowledged his hamstring injury from Game 3 is still an issue for him, and that he would not be playing if this were the regular season. Still, they need him to be effective for all four quarters and not just the first two, which was the case in Game 4. As for Chalmers, he didn't score a ton of points for Miami but did hit a couple of huge threes during their third-quarter stretch to gain control of the game. 

PLAYER TO WATCH: Although LeBron James led all scorers with 33 points in Game 4, Dwyane Wade was the true star of the game. It's not realistic to expect Wade to put up 32 points and get six steals every night like he did in Game 4, but if he can have another high-impact performance, the Heat will head back to Miami with a chance to close things out on Tuesday. 

STAT TO TRACK: Apparently third quarter is the charm in this series. The eventual winner in each of the first four games has won the third quarter in all but one game. The lone exception was Game 1 when the Heat and Spurs each finished the third with 20 points scored.