Manu’s elbow passes first test

By Jeff McDonald

Manu Ginobili says the right elbow he sprained in the Spurs’ regular-season finale, the one that put a scare in all of San Antonio, did not bother him in his 2011 postseason debut Wednesday.

The brace fastened to it during the Spurs’ 93-87 victory in Game 2 over Memphis was another story.

“I’m not a player who likes to play with a lot of wristbands or pads or stuff like that,” he said. “So it was a little uncomfortable.”

Ginobili admitted, however, he liked the contraption better than the sports coat he was forced to wear while sitting out the Spurs’ Game 1 loss.

Playing with his right arm nearly tied to his back, and in his first full game in 10 days, Ginobili supplied 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists Wednesday. He shot 5 of 13 from the field and missed an atypical six free throws.

But most importantly, Ginobili came out of a rough-and-tumble Game 2 convinced there is little he can do to aggravate the elbow.

“I took some risks, I went for some steals and rebounds,” Ginobili said. “I didn’t play like I was worried of getting hit.”

One important test passed, Ginobili is eager to remove that infernal apparatus from his non-shooting arm. Team doctors have suggested perhaps he could play without it at some point in this series.

In the meantime, Ginobili chose to look at the lucky side of his predicament.

If Grant Hill had accidentally rammed through his left arm instead of his right April 13 at Phoenix, Ginobili wouldn’t be able to play at all.

“It would have been difficult,” Ginobili said. “Maybe impossible.”

PICK A SHOOTER: With 14.4 seconds remaining in Game 2 and the Spurs up by two, Ginobili practiced his free-throw shooting motion, preparing himself for what might be the game’s crucial foul shots.

Typically in that situation, the Spurs try to get the ball to Ginobili, their top foul shooter during the regular season at 87.1 percent, knowing Memphis had to foul to stop the clock.

This time, the inbounds pass went to George Hill, but coach Gregg Popovich said Ginobili’s uncharacteristic 7-for-13 foul shooting to that point in the game played no factor in his design for the play.

Without giving away tactical secrets, Popovich said he had an abundance of options.

“You want the ball in your free-throw shooters’ hands, and (Hill) is one of our good free-throw shooters, along with Manu,” he said. “Everybody would want to get the ball to somebody who you think might make a free throw, and (Hill) is the guy that caught it.”

BEEN A WHILE: After fouling out of Game 2 with 1:14 remaining, Spurs forward Tim Duncan tried to recall the last time that had happened to him in a postseason contest.

“I think it was 1964,” a straight-faced Duncan said.

In fact, Duncan last fouled out of a playoff game on May 13, 2006, during Game 3 against the Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals. He scored 35 points before hitting the showers early in a 104-103 Dallas victory.

Express-News staff writer Mike Monroe contributed to this report.

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