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Life doesn’t necessarily begin at 40, but it doesn’t end, either. Neither do NBA careers.
Manu Ginobili became the second four-decade-old player to prove that point Friday night when he came off the bench to score 21 points to spur San Antonio to a 104-89 triumph over the visiting Phoenix Suns.
In doing so, Ginobili became only the second 40-year-old player in NBA history to score 20 or more points off the bench. The first guy to do so, Vince Carter of the Sacramento Kings, broke new ground in the league history books by pumping in 24 points off the bench in a win against visiting Cleveland on Dec. 27.
Spurs teammate Patty Mills consistently has fun at Ginobili’s expense, saying his brings “grandpa juice” to the Spurs.
“Whatever he’s drinking, I want some of it,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, never one to gush about individual performances, said in admiration of Ginobili’s outburst. “I’m serious, there’s got to be a fountain of youth someplace.”
Ginobili’s reputed liquid refreshment, at least the one of which Mills teases him, was a hot topic of conversation after his turn-back-the-clock performance, all of which was recorded in the first three quarters of play.
“Grandpa juice, he’s got it, man,” Bryn Forbes, who replaced the injured Danny Green (groin) in the Spurs starting lineup, said. “It’s amazing what he can do. He’s done it this long, and you don’t see that much.
“He’s special. It makes you want to play a little harder when you see him doing that.”
Ginobili was particularly impressive in the third quarter against Phoenix. In a 2-minute, 6-second span, he hit three straight 3-pointerss, made a reverse layup and, just for good measure, blocked a shot. In the final 3:18 of the quarter, Ginobili scored 13 of his 21 points, paving the way to a 7-of-10 shooting performance, including 3-of-4 from 3, to go with three dimes, two steals and the one block.
Ginobili’s 21-point performance matched teammate Kawhi Leonard for team-high honors for the Spurs (27-13). Forbes (16), Pau Gasol (15) and Davis Bertans (12) all reached double figures for San Antonio. Devin Booker led Phoenix (15-26) with 21 points, while Marquese Chriss (12), rookie Josh Jackson (11), Alex Len (10) and Troy Daniels (10) also hit double digits. Center Tyson Chandler scored only three points, but pulled down a game-high dozen boards.
But it was all background noise to the eruption by Ginobili. True to his nature, Ginobili didn’t make too much of his individual performance, but he certainly did appreciate the opportunity to help his team earn a victory.
“I knew it was coming, I knew it was coming,” Ginobili said through a laugh. “I was feeling really well today, very energetic. I had a 9-hour sleep, (which) doesn’t happen that often in a family with three kids. But the bottom line is, it just happened. I made three 3’s in a row, and then it looked better after that.
“I felt those shots were going in, not a feeling that I’ve been having that often lately. So, when it does come, it feels great. At the same time, you feel like you are helping the team because we were kind of struggling. The game was close. We were right there. I helped us get a little lead, and that makes it even better.”