Bad memory No. 3: Manu injures elbow in final game before the playoffs

The Spurs streaked to 61 victories in the first 81 games of the season. They appeared to have a chance to claim a shot at homecourt advantage during the entire NBA playoffs if they could beat Phoenix in the season-ending game April 13.

After resting key players the night before against the Los Angeles Lakers, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich elected to return all of his starters the following night against the Suns.

But disaster struck barely 2 minutes into the game when Manu Ginobili was caught in a grinding collision between Tim Duncan and Grant Hill.

His resulting injury and absence for Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs was something the Spurs couldn’t overcome.

No. 3: Manu’s ill-timed elbow injury spoils final regular-season game and dooms playoff run.

When: April 13, 2011

Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix

What happened: Only 134 seconds into the Spurs’ last game of the season, Ginobili was coming across a Duncan pick, with Hill trailing, when he appeared to get his arm pinned between them. It bent Ginobili’s elbow back at a grotesque angle before he tumbled to the court in obvious pain. The early diagnosis was a sprained right elbow, but Ginobili admitted after the playoffs that he actually sustained a small fracture of the right arm. Spurs team officials later said  the injury actually was located in his ulna, one of the two long bones running from his wrist to elbow. And even worse, the Spurs lost 106-103 to kill their hopes of tying Chicago for the best record in the league.  

What was said, Part I: ”Now, the fun starts,” Popovich, describing the challenge of overcoming Ginobili’s injury heading into the playoffs.

What was said, Part II: ”You can’t predict anything, and there’s no reason to second guess. I don’t think any one of us is going to do that,” Duncan, to the Express-News after the game about Ginobili’s injury.  

What was said, Part III: ”They needed to get a good run, and they did, so they can keep a rhythm,” Popovich, explaining to the Express-News why he chose to play his starters with the No. 1 seed locked up in the Western Conference.

What was said, Part IV: ”If Manu ain’t healthy, historically, we go nowhere.When he was hurt against Dallas (in 2009), they beat us. Last year, we beat them in the first round because Manu was healthy. Manu was half-assed one year against the Lakers (in 2008), or they don’t win three (Western Conference titles) in a row. His health is huge for us,” What Popovich told the Express-News about Ginobili’s injury several days after his team was eliminated from the playoffs.

GAME NOTES: Ginobili, Duncan and Tony Parker all sat out the previous game against the Lakers before playing against the Suns. Marcin Gortat muscled the Spurs for 21 points and 13 rebounds to enable Phoenix to keep from being swept in the regular season by the Spurs in the 106-103 victory. Phoenix eliminated the Spurs in a four-game sweep in the 2010 playoffs. The Spurs finished at 61-21 — a game behind Chicago for the best NBA record.  Duncan had 17 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes. Parker scored 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting in 25 minutes. Neither were on the court when the game ended. Phoenix erupted to a 17-point lead in the first quarter after shooting 65 percent from the field and the Spurs never could catch them. Trailing 85-74 heading into the fourth quarter, the Spurs nearly came back as Gary Neal threw up an air ball from the corner in a shot that could have tied the game at the buzzer. Ginobili would miss the first game of the first-round playoff series against Memphis. His team never really recovered after losing that game.

Previous bad memories:

No. 10: .

No. 9: Black Friday fourth-quarter collapse against Dallas helps snap Spurs’ .  

No. 8: : Spurs blown out by Orlando by 22.

No. 7: Lowly Clips to Spurs.

No. 6:  Heat’sfrom 30-point loss 10 days earlier.

No. 5: Blowout loss to Lakers .

No. 4: Duncan’s ankle injury.  

Previous good memories:

No. 10: .

No. 9: boosts comeback victory over Thunder.

No. 8: leads overtime victory over Memphis.

No. 7:boosts Spurs past Warriors.

No. 6: TD becomesin one game.

No. 5:with record 3-point binge.

No. 4: Pop passes Auerbach on.

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