SAN ANTONIO -- Manu Ginobili plays basketball like he is riding a bull in the rodeo.
It may look like chaos, but there is poetry in that motion.
On the San Antonio Spurs, a team known for its disciplined style, whose best player is expressionless, whose coach is a former military man, Ginobili is the oddball, always ready to cross the line.
In a league filled with silky-smooth players, he has an unorthodox, sandpaper style. He doesn't flow. He flails.
"There are times when everyone in the gym thinks he is out of control, except him," teammate Brent Barry said. "He might look crazy, loony with some of his moves, but he knows what he's doing."
Ginobili is the 6-foot-6, 205-pound guard who has become the biggest threat to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals. He scored 22 second-half points, 15 in the fourth quarter, on Thursday night to lift the Spurs to an 84-69 win in Game 1.
He was everywhere at the end, hitting an awkward three-pointer, then wedging himself into the lane to make an off-balance, off-hand scoop shot. He challenged Ben Wallace. He drove around Tayshaun Prince. He slipped past Richard Hamilton. He hit the floor five times.
He didn't slow down until he was knocked down.
There is a frenzy to his game -- long hair flying, elbows and knees going in four directions -- that makes him so difficult to predict, which is why it could happen again tonight in Game 2.
"He just has that hell-bent-for-leather sort of attitude. He can really test your patience," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "But he has a willingness to do whatever it takes, and to do it at the highest possible level of intensity."
More than anyone else in San Antonio, Ginobili has reached new heights in the playoffs.
Ginobili, 27, grew up in Argentina and played professionally at the age of 18. The Spurs found him in Italy, drafting him in the second round in 1999. He didn't arrive in San Antonio until 2002, already seasoned as a rookie with his own style of play.
"We had a lot of talks early on, knocked heads, as far as me trying to control him, getting him into our system," Popovich said. "His response was, 'This is what I do.' And the more I watched, the more I realized there was going to be a lot more good doing it his way than my way. We were going to be willing to eat a couple turnovers, eat a bad shot here or there, and see where it goes. And this is where it has gone."
The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
San Antonio vs. Detroit
Best of seven; *-if necessary
All games on chs. 2, 7
(San Antonio leads series 1-0)
Game 1: San Antonio, 84-69
Today: at S. Antonio, 9 p.m.
Tuesday: at Detroit, 9 p.m.
Thursday: at Detroit, 9 p.m.
*Next Sunday: at Detroit, 9 p.m.
*June 21: at San Antonio, 9 p.m.
*June 23: at San Antonio, 9 p.m.