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Ginobili's perfect night keys pivotal Spurs win over Trail Blazers

SAN ANTONIO -- With Al-Farouq Aminu all over him in suffocate mode, Manu Ginobili peeked over his left shoulder at Rudy Gay.

This decision would zip through Ginobili's thoughts as quickly as his next move.

"I saw Rudy wide open next to me," Ginobili said, shaking his head. "I said, 'No.' I said, 'Not this time.' I go. I go because I was feeling really well."

Ginobili drove past Aminu for a right-handed finger roll with 6 minutes, 3 seconds remaining in the game to cap a personal 8-0 run that helped lift the San Antonio Spurs to a 116-105 win Saturday over the Portland Trail Blazers, while keeping alive their once-fading postseason aspirations. If the Spurs defeat the Sacramento Kings on Monday, they'll advance to the postseason for the 21st consecutive season.

San Antonio can also slide into the postseason with a loss on Monday by either the Minnesota Timberwolves or the Denver Nuggets.

The Spurs can thank Ginobili for this latest run of good fortune with the Western Conference playoff race tightening down the stretch. In a span of 49 seconds, the 40-year-old turned a four-point lead into a 12-point advantage for a San Antonio squad that has given up fourth-quarter leads this season like candy at Halloween. During Ginobili's game-sealing 49-second sequence, the veteran hit two 3-pointers, snagged a rebound and nabbed a steal before streaking past Aminu for the finger roll which made the score 101-89.

"Just get out of his way," Gay said. "Manu finds a way to do it each and every night, even at his age. He's a Hall of Famer, and he showed why tonight."

Portland immediately called for a timeout after Ginobili's broke open the game for the Spurs. As Ginobili walked back toward San Antonio's bench, point guard Dejounte Murray playfully shoved the veteran in acknowledgement of yet another miraculous feat.

"If you saw me, I was cheering, cheering, cheering," Murray said. "He's 40 years old. What do you want from him? He already paid his dues. He's a future Hall of Famer. He's won championships. So it's like that's just a bonus for us. Manu could be with his family and kids. But he's showing the love and passion he has for the game, and he's here with us."

Overall, Ginobili scored 17 points in 19:12, making all seven field goal attempts. It was the most shots Ginobili made in his career without a miss in his career, and it complemented a night where All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge scored a team-high 28 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the field. Ginobili scored a total of 10 points in the fourth quarter on 4-of-4 shooting to go with an assist, two rebounds and a steal.

The hot streak for Ginobili started when he launched a 26-footer off an assist from Gay, as Damian Lillard sagged on defense. That made the score 96-89 at the 6:52 mark of the fourth quarter. Next trip down the court, Ginobili pulled up from 25-feet out to put San Antonio up by 10. Nineteen seconds later, Ginobili stole the ball from a driving Lillard, before completing his 49-second masterpiece with the right-handed finger roll.

"Ginobili did what Ginobili does," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "He made clutch shots."

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich agreed.

"It was a pretty exciting time," Popovich said. "Manu's done that over the years. It was great."

Ginobili's teammates often joke the veteran is bringing the "grandpa juice" when he produces such game-defining moments. The typically self-deprecating 40-year-old, meanwhile, credited an afternoon nap and nine hours of sleep the previous night for the strong performance.

"I was very juicy," Ginobili joked.

Just four other players in NBA history have put together more double-digit scoring games than Ginobili in a season at age 40 or older (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish, John Stockton and Karl Malone). Another prune-juicy stat: both Ginobili and Michael Jordan have produced 29 double-digit scoring games at age 40 or older.

"I truly don't know. I was just feeling good,"Ginobili said. "A couple of shots went in. I was feeling that type of rush, and that type of excitement, flow. I was trying to use it. I'm very happy that happened in a game like today, in an important moment; made me feel good. It helped the team get a lead."