Manu of the Match: Ginobili is the hero in another instant classic

Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili (photo. Xinhua)

While the NBA was still buzzing from the Knicks/Celtics craziness, the Nuggets and Spurs went out and topped the East Coasters in terms of sheer insanity and drama at the end. And their game included what was possibly the best in-game dunk we’ve seen since Shawn Kemp was rocking Kamikazes … The Nuggets had a slim lead early in the fourth quarter before Manu Ginobili went off. He got wide open on a backdoor cut for a layup, hit a step-back jumper that looked a lot like the dagger he delivered against Milwaukee, then drained a three to put San Antonio seemingly in command. And when Manu wasn’t scoring, Tony Parker (24 pts, 9 asts) and Tim Duncan (28 pts, 16 rebs, 4 blks) were running an unstoppable two-man game. But then Carmelo got busy, powering his way in for layups and free throw opportunities to keep it close … With 25 seconds left, Denver was down two with Al Harrington at the line. He made the first, but dented the rim with the second, and for some reason the Nuggets let the Spurs pass the basketball around like a joint and didn’t foul until Ginobili got it. He of course made his free throws, and then things really got crazy: Carmelo (31 pts, 9 rebs) drove in for a dunk to cut the lead to one, and then Antonio McDyess and Ginobili screwed up the inbounds, allowing ‘Melo to get a steal and lay the ball in for the go-ahead shot. Denver had gone from down three to up one in like six seconds. So while you’d think San Antonio would be stunned, all Gregg Popovich did was draw up a play to get Ginobili (16 pts) a running banker through three defenders off the inbounds pass. Denver ball with four seconds left, and Carmelo drove down the middle for the game-winning bucket — except he trucked Ginobili in the process and was called for charging. Ballgame. And somewhere, Amar’e Stoudemire was empathizing … Alright, raise your hand if you’ve gotten Gary Forbes and Gary Neal mixed up at some point this season. Now raise your hand again if it was still happening last night …

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J.R. Smith (photo. Mark Mann)

J.R. Smith (photo. Mark Mann)

Neal did do one thing to set himself apart from the pack, but for his own well-being, might have been better off appearing in Samwell‘s next video if he needed some attention. In the first half, Neal saw J.R. Smith knifing into the paint and decided to step in front to take a charge. Bad idea. Smith damn near hurdled dude and crammed it with TWO hands. It was incredible. TNT’s Kevin Harlan screamed, “I just saw a man fly!” before adding “Ride ’em cowboy!” Extra cool points for J.R. for cupping his hear to the crowd like Hulk Hogan … And apparently a lot of people think George Hill was the guy on the wrong end of that dunk. A couple hours after the game, Hill tweeted, “Why is my timeline filled up saying I got dunked on. I guess alot of people didn’t watch the game cause my number is 3 not 14.”Rajon Rondo and the Celtics’ Big Three carried the day against the Knicks in that thriller, so in last night’s win over Atlanta, the role players took over. Big Baby had 18 points and 10 boards and hit some big shots in the fourth quarter. Marquis Daniels made some key unsung plays down the stretch, like getting to loose balls and making the extra pass. And with Rondo sidelined — he’ll miss a couple of weeks due to his ankle and other nagging injuries — Nate Robinson started at PG and had 14 points, 5 dimes, 3 steals and 1 almost-hilarious almost-brawl with Al Horford. That would have looked like Dee-Bo fighting Ezell … In Thursday’s only other NBA game, Devin Harris put up 29 points (14-17 FT) and 9 assists to lead New Jersey past Washington, while Gilbert Arenas had 19 points, 9 dimes and 2 steals in the loss … Blake Griffin is ahead of John Wall on pretty much everybody’s Rookie of the Year ballot, but there’s one category in which they’re dead-even. Both of their teams are still winless on the road. Wall’s knee tendinitis kept him out of last night’s game, and don’t be too alarmed yet, but his DNP’s are slowly catching up to his number of game appearances … Charles Barkley line of the night: Kenny Smith told Chuck he was eating Smarties candy, and Barkley quipped, “Clearly they’re not catching on.” … Dime’s Aron Phillips has been in New Orleans this week for the Jordan Brand launch of the new Chris Paul signature shoe, the CP3.IV. Coolest part of the day? They had the floor at New Orleans Arena made to look exactly like it did for the All-Star Saturday Night skills competition, back when CP3 won the competition in record time, and had the media guests run their own skills comp. And our dude AP won the whole thing in 33.8 seconds, not far from CP3’s record time of 31 seconds. Tonight it’s luxury suite treatment for the Hornets/Jazz game … We’re out like Gary Neal …

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