SAN ANTONIO -- San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stuck
with a small starting lineup for Game 5 against the Dallas
Mavericks on Wednesday night, but there was one change -- Manu Ginobili was a starter again.
This was the third straight game Popovich experimented with a
new starting five. The Spurs lost the two previous times, sending
the defending champions into this one down 3-1 in the second-round
series and facing elimination.
Ginobili came off the bench in Game 3, replaced by Brent Barry,
in an attempt to get more scoring off the bench. It worked as
Ginobili scored 24 and 26 points. Apparently, his production was so
good that Popovich wanted it from the start.
The move certainly wasn't about getting bigger. For the second
straight game, San Antonio went with a lineup featuring Tim Duncan
and four players who are 6-foot-7 or shorter.
Parker, playing on his 24th birthday, also was dealing with a
strained groin sustained in Game 4. Popovich said before the game
that Parker was feeling better. The injury could limit Parker's
speed, one of his best assets, and make it tough for him to keep up
with Dallas' speedy new point guard, Devin Harris.
"I'm concerned, obviously, because he's done it before this
season," Popovich said. "If he does it again during the game,
that would be a huge problem."
Popovich didn't talk about the new lineup before tipoff -- except
to make wisecracks.
"We're going to start three bigs,"' he said, laughing.
"Somebody told me we didn't get the offensive rebounds at the end
of Game 3 and 4 because we didn't have big enough guys out there.
That sounds good enough to me."