And old Manu happened. Not the going-on-36 guy who was outplayed by his counterparts in the playoffs.
But the other end of the Big Three triangle in San Antonio after Duncan and Parker.
He dropped in his first three-pointer from the left baseline to open the game’s scoring. He feinted. He stutter-stepped. He made 8 of 14 shots, 7 of 8 free throws and doled out 10 assists, many to get Duncan going in the first half.
There were pretty bounce passes. Thread-the-needle darts along the baseline. Look-at-the-three-and-then-give-it-up chest passes to Green, who had a better look at the basket.
“I just had a better game,” Ginobili said. “I’m not sure it’s because I started. I made the first two shots and I played with Tony more so I was off the ball. I got to the free throw line more and those things combined got me going.”
How much will Ginobili have left for Game 6? Who cares right now?
This had shades of Joe Montana finding something left in Kansas City at the end of his career, Brett Favre marching Minnesota to an NFC championship game at the end, Michael Jordan’s steal and shot at 35 years old in Utah. He wasn’t exactly George Foreman winning the heavyweight title or Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters in their 40s.
But for one night, he was close to the great young player whom the Spurs took a chance on all those years ago.
The story about him seeing Jordan on week-old highlights in his parents’ Buenos Aires home when he was a child — when he became enraptured by the NBA and gave up soccer — was old and rote by Sunday night.
All the special moments when he teamed with Duncan and Parker to win three titles in 2003, 2005 and 2007 were collecting dust in his memory.
Manu was supposed to be old, irrelevant, done as a big-time player. And he found his game again. Hit big shots, made the right passes, turned an arena into a deafening place of euphoria again.
“Sometimes I do think about retirement,” he said. “But then I say, ‘No, no. I love what I do. I’m very lucky to be in a franchise like this. So I really can’t picture myself being retired already.’ ”
Good. Your teammates need you Tuesday and perhaps Thursday in Miami, where Dwyane Wade or someone else might just be the next to find the fountain of youth.
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.