by Mike Seely
Manu Ginobili is a champion, and perhaps the most successful Sixth Man in the history of the game. But he's one of the NBA's most hated players outside of San Antonio for a reason: He's a shameless flopper. In fact, it could be argued that the league's decision to institute flopping fines this year is a direct byproduct of Manu's thespian competence. And on Tuesday night, Manu got out-Ginobilied by Memphis' Tony Allen.
The Spurs were well on their way to blowing a double-digit fourth quarter lead when Manu lost the ball toward the tail end of a horrible possession that could have iced the game. Shortly thereafter, Allen was flying down the lane for what would have been a wide open layup, had Manu not grabbed Allen's left wrist as he began his ascent to the bucket. An off-balance Allen landed awkwardly, holding his head as though it had slammed into the hardwood and coaxing the referees into calling a flagrant foul on Ginobili, which gave Memphis two shots and the ball. Down four, Allen converted the two free throws and the Grizzlies made good on their extra possession, sending the game into overtime.
Replays, however, would show that Allen's head never touched the ground. He'd essentially faked a concussion. It would have only been fitting had Manu stopped to applaud the Memphis stopper's homage. Thankfully, the Spurs were ultimately spared their Sixth Man's karmic comeuppance, escaping with a 93-89 victory behind Tim Duncan's dominant two-way play in the extra frame, and taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals.
All game long, Duncan's defense, whether matched against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol (a combined 10-30 from the field), was nothing short of masterful. If Allen out-Ginobilied Manu, than Duncan out-Gasoled Pau's baby brother with his positioning in the paint and judiciousness at the rim (Duncan finished with four blocks).
In spite of Duncan's efforts, San Antonio was manhandled on the glass, getting outrebounded 60-46 (19-4 on the offensive end). Tiago Splitter is nearly seven-feet tall. He played 34 minutes. He grabbed four rebounds. Granted, he played excellent defense and thrived within the rhythm of the Spurs' snappy offense, which crackled during the second and third quarters, in which San Antonio tallied 61 points (Tony Parker notched a playoff career-high with 18 assists). But Splitter is soft, as are Matt Bonner (two boards in 27 minutes) and Boris Diaw (two rebounds in 12 minutes). Not far from the bench, David Robinson stood clapping. We can't help but wonder if he'd like to do more.