Manu Ginobili got his first start of the
season on Sunday night and the struggling Argentine ace delivered,
sending the San Antonio Spurs to within a victory of their fifth NBA
Ginobili had 24 points with 10 assists, Danny Green also scored 24, hitting six threes, and the Spurs beat the Miami Heat 114-104 to take a 3-2 advantage in the Finals.
"Coach wanted me to be out there playing more minutes and doing my thing," Ginobili said of Gregg Popovich's decision to start him. "I needed to be more of a factor offensively."
Through the first four games, Ginobili averaged a disappointing 7.5 points on a frosty 34-per-cent shooting. But in the biggest game of the season, Manu looked like the Manu of old, knocking down 8 of 14 shots on a variety of slashes to the basket and jumpers.
"I tried to be more aggressive and get to the free throw line. And when you have Danny Green making six three-pointers that helps," Ginobili said.
"We knew how important this game was and we needed a win. We couldn't go to Miami down 3-2 and needing to win two games. It's a great opportunity now one win away."
The Spurs will look to wrap up the series and dethrone the defending champion Heat in Miami in game 6 Tuesday or Thursday, if necessary.
"There's no magic to it," Popovich said."It's basketball. It's not complicated. Both teams will compete their fannies off."
With his already 25 three-pointers, Green easily shot past Ray Allen for an NBA Finals record.
"The numbers are nice but the biggest thing is to give ourselves a chance to win," said Green, who has made a remarkable 25 of 38 from behind the three-point arc in his first NBA Finals appearance.
Frenchman Tony Parker shrugged off a right hamstring strain to drop in 26 points, Tim Duncan had 17 with 12 rebounds, while Kawhi Leonard scored 16 as the hosts shot a sizzling 60 per cent from the field (40-72) in a wire-to-wire win.
Afterward, Duncan explained the importance of having Ginobili back in top form.
"He's such a huge part of what we do and how far we've come. You can see it tonight in how we played and the results of the game," he said. "We're always confident in him. We know he has it in him. We hope he can bring it forward for one more win."
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James scored 25 points apiece, while Ray Allen finished with 21 off the bench for the Heat, who will look to stay alive.
"This is the position we're in and the most important game is game 6," James said. "We can't worry about a game 7, we have to worry about game 6.
"As the leader of this team, I will put a lot of pressure on myself to force a game 7," the four-time league MVP added. "We have an opportunity on our home floor to keep the series going and we look forward to the challenge."
The Spurs came out sharp and closed the first quarter on a 15-2 run to take a 32-19 advantage. The lead swelled to 17 before being trimmed to 61-52 by halftime, as Green and Duncan scored 13 points apiece while Ginobili and Parker each added 11.
Miami made a run and drew within 75-74 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter. Green, however, drilled a three-pointer, Ginobili converted a three-point play and followed with a runner to spark a period-ending 12-1, putting the Spurs ahead 87-75.
"We missed a couple of shots we normally make, and it was a snowball from there," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
San Antonio opened the fourth frame on a 9-0 burst and the lead quickly ballooned to 20 but Miami made one last run.
Allen erupted for 15 points, including a layup, making it 109-101 with 1 minute 37 seconds left. But Parker ended the threat with a scoop layup and Green fired in his final three to seal the victory.
"We felt like we could steal it, but they continued to make shots," Wade said. "Give credit to them."
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