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Manu Ginobili Breaks Nose, Then Mavs' Hearts

Apr 24, 2010 – 10:05 AM
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Tom Ziller

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In the third quarter of Game 3 of Spurs-Mavericks Friday night, San Antonio's enigmatic playmaker Manu Ginobili attempted to cut off a driving Dirk Nowitzki a bit too late. Dirk's elbow, famous for the damage it can cause, swung by Manu's face, clipping the Spur's nose. Dirk sunk the runner as Ginobili immediately rocked backward, and as Nowitzki prepared for his free throw (yes, Manu was called for the foul), Ginobili headed to the bench to have a cut on his nose repaired.

Moments later, Manu left for the locker room. ESPN showed a grisly split-screen, on one side Manu's usual profile and on the other a crooked, crooked snout, captured post-elbow. The prognosis, after a postgame X-ray: a fractured nose. (Manu reportedly wouldn't allow the Spurs medics to diagnose the injury when he went to the locker room -- as soon as the bleeding was stemmed, he made a beeline for the court.)

The Spurs had led by four when Manu left the game, after Nowitzki's free throw. The Mavericks continued to stall for a few possessions, with the Spurs taking an 8-point lead with seven minutes remaining in the third. Here, Dallas began to capitalize on Manu's absence. Nowitzki went berserker, and the Mavericks went on an incredible 17-0 run over the next four minutes.

Ginobili returned late in that run, unbelievably. He missed exactly four minutes and 59 seconds of game time. With a broken nose. He didn't make an immediate impact -- Dallas finished out its run with jumpers by Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Jose Juan Barea, taking a 9-point lead at 68-59.

San Antonio bounced back before the quarter let out, with Tim Duncan getting a big and-1 off a Manu pass in transition. Manu didn't score again in the third, and the Spurs trailed 70-66 entering the fourth. And there, Manu struck back.

Ginobili immediately went nuts in the fourth, scoring five points himself (to go along with two from George Hill) before the Mavericks scored one. Manu's second bucket of the quarter -- a Ginobili classic lefty layup, plus the foul -- gave San Antonio the lead again. Terry answered with a quick triple to re-tie the game at 73. Manu's next bucket -- a (surprise!) lefty layup in which he froze Brendan Haywood at the rim, really a poster-worthy move -- gave S.A. a lead again.

On the quarter, Manu finished with 11 points, three rebounds and an assist, playing all 12 minutes. The Spurs won by four, 94-90, and lead the series 2-1 with Game 4 in San Antonio Sunday.

Of course, none of this surprising. Manu has always one of the league's most fearless players, and to see him play so aggressively with a broken nose is almost expected. Thank goodness the Spurs extended his contract three more years, because the day the Manu era ends will be a sad one indeed.

Filed under: Sports