MIAMI — Manu Ginobili was the man of the hour following San Antonio's Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat on Sunday.
But as we have seen in the Finals, role players lurking in the shadows at the end of the bench, have emerged to be big contributors in ways that don't necessarily show up in the final stats.
The latest to do so is San Antonio's Boris Diaw, one of the unsung heroes in the Spurs 114-104 win over Miami in Game 5.
Diaw only scored a single point, but his defense against LeBron James was pointed out as one of the many things San Antonio did well in their Game 5 victory.
While Kawhi Leonard has been praised throughout the series on the job he has done defensively against James, Diaw was indeed a defensive factor in James shooting just 8-for-22 from the field in Game 5.
Diaw is the latest example of how patience pays off. He didn't play (coaches decision) in Game 3 and saw limited action in Game 4.
"It's the playoffs, so Pops (head coach Gregg Popovich) is going to do what's needed," Diaw said. "He's going to make the right choices to get us ready."
Although the Spurs lost Game 4 109-93, Diaw was surprisingly effective with nine points off the bench in just 11 minutes.
But as folks saw in Game 5, he can be a factor defensively as well.
Spurs teammate Tony Parker knows this as well as anyone, having played together on the French National team.
"Boris is a pretty good defender. He looks awkward, but he gets the job done," Parker said. "Every time in Europe he guards guys like that, the (Andrei) Kirilenkos, stuff like that, the fours who can really move."
Parker added, "It gives a different look for LeBron. Kawhi is doing a great job. The whole team we're trying to do a good job. I think Boris, we have confidence in him that for a couple of minutes he can do a good job."
Role players such as Diaw will once again be front and center as the Spurs try to close out the series and claim their fifth NBA title tonight against a Heat team that's trying to keep their title hopes alive with a win tonight and force a decisive Game 7 on Thursday.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Miami has been tweaking its roster throughout the playoffs, and tonight should not be any different. Don't be surprised to see the Heat go back to having Udonis Haslem start, and having Chris Anderson - he has not played (coaches decision) the last two games - back in the rotation to try and counter San Antonio's quicker, small-ball lineup.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Tim Duncan vs Chris Bosh: Both Duncan and Bosh have been getting better as the Finals has progressed. Whichever one can come out on top in their head-to-head battle, may prove to be the difference in what should be a tightly contested, down-to-the-wire game.
PLAYER TO WATCH: The hit by the late Tupac, "All Eyez on Me," should be LeBron James' theme song heading into tonight's season-on-the-line Game 6 matchup. A big game by James doesn't necessarily mean he scores a lot of points. But he knows - everyone knows - he has to be more than anything else, a dominant presence on the floor if the Heat are to live to play another game after tonight.
STAT TO TRACK: Turnovers have been one of the biggest difference-makers in the Finals so far. The winning team in the first five games averaged 10.2 turnovers that led to 11 points per game. The losers have turned the ball over 15.2 times which generated a 17.2 points per game average off of turnovers.