DENVER — Manu Ginobili isn’t making excuses for his style of play, and George Karl is making a qualified excuse for his team’s 2-1 hole.
Sunday afternoon, 14 hours after the San Antonio Spurs beat the Denver Nuggets, 86-78, in Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals, both men stood firm in their evaluation of the contest. Karl, who complained about the officiating right after the loss, was still upset at what he felt was a tilt in the officiating toward Ginobili, who led the Spurs to the win with 32 points off the bench.
“After watching the film I thought we were wearing the black hats and they were wearing the white hats,” Denver’s head coach said. “But they are the champions, and sometimes that’s the way it works. The champions get benefits, but I thought on our home court we’re supposed to have the white hats.”
Karl took exception to refs constantly allowing Ginobili to bull his way into the lane, and then giving him the calls. Ginobili didn’t apologize for his play.
“Everybody does that in this league,” said Ginobili, who is the leading scorer in the series at 24 points a game.
“The semicircle in the paint makes everybody try to draw contact because that’s trying to use the rules to your benefit. There are
some guys that try to get the benefit of the rule in other ways. I don’t think I’m the only one doing this in the league, and I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong. I’m just going aggressive to the basket, try to finish and draw the foul.”
Karl thinks Ginobili plays an unappetizing style of basketball.
“Personally, watching it kind of makes the game ugly,” he said. “When you’re a San Antonio Spur fan, you love him, you want him on your side. I want him on my side. I just think he creates bad calls a lot because he flails in there.”
Ginobili was 10 of 13 from the free-throw line Saturday, but as a whole, the Nuggets out-shot the Spurs from the line, 30-28. The problem was the Nuggets hit just 17 of those 30. That played a part in Denver’s failure to take advantage of sub-par games from Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
Duncan had just 11 points and was limited to 27 minutes because of foul trouble. Parker had four fouls and had just 10 points.
“We didn’t get the performance out of (Duncan) that we wanted, or out of some other players, but we were still able to hang around by defense and Manu playing unbelievable,” forward Bruce Bowen said.
Ginobili’s big night culminated in a hard foul on him by Carmelo Anthony, who put the guard on the floor with 22.5 seconds left. Anthony said he wasn’t trying to hurt him, and Ginobili wasn’t upset at the foul.
“It was a hard foul, so you’ve just got to stand up again, take your free throws, go back to the hotel, get your rest and take care of your body,” he said. “I don’t think it was a cheap foul. It was a tough foul, and that’s it.”
Even though Ginobili did his share in putting Denver in a 2-1 series hole with Game 4 tonight (8:30 p.m., TNT/Altitude), the Nuggets complimented him on Saturday’s performance.
“I respect his game, I respect what he can do out there,” Anthony said. “A game like (Saturday) night, he hit from the outside and the inside. It’s kind of hard to guard him.”
The Nuggets will have to find an answer for Ginobili if they want to go back to Texas tied. Even if they do contain the Argentinean Olympic hero tonight, it might not do much good if Duncan plays better.
“We’re a younger team in playoff basketball, and this is our first must-win game,” Karl said. “They’ve kind of had two must-win games already. And there’s a mental drain that comes with a playoff series that might fall in our hands (tonight).”
If Ginobili has another good night, it might be good night for the Nuggets.