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Ginobili's the Man-u
Tue, May 27, 2008
The Straits Times
SAN ANTONIO - MANU Ginobili struggled for two games and it seemed he might not have anything left.

A sore ankle, a ripped fingernail and plenty of missed shots. All the while, he insisted he would step up for the San Antonio Spurs.

He kept his promise on Sunday night. And nobody on either team was surprised.

'He is such a competitor,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, after Ginobili scored 30 points to lead the Spurs to a 103-84 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the National Basketball Association Western Conference Finals.

'He puts so much on his shoulders, he fights through a lot of things. He's got a lot of confidence in what he can do.

'And, so, when he has these games, it is really not a surprise anymore.'

Ginobili hit five of the Spurs' 10 3-pointers and got to the rim a few times to keep the defending champions from falling into a 0-3 hole, which no NBA team has ever overcome.

'I was too stagnant in the first two games,' said Ginobili, the league's top sixth man, who came off the bench on Sunday.

'I didn't feel like I was being me. I made the first shots. I felt good. And then it was easier for me.'

The Lakers lead the series 2-1. Game 4 is tomorrow in San Antonio.

Tim Duncan had 22 points, 21 rebounds and five assists, and Tony Parker added 20 points and five assists for the Spurs, who remain unbeaten at home this post-season.

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 30 points and Pau Gasol scored 15.

'It's a good experience for us to play against the defending champs and have them kick our butts the way they did,' Bryant said. 'I think we grew up a lot tonight.'

Lamar Odom struggled all night, finishing 2-of-11 from the field for seven points. But he had six of the Lakers' 13 assists and 11 rebounds.

'On me personally, it definitely snowballed,' Odom said.

'That happens, but sometimes I'd rather go out swinging than being passive. It was just one of those nights.'

The Lakers also struggled at the free- throw line, going just 8-of-17. Bryant went to the line only once.

On Sunday, the Spurs got a lead midway through the second quarter and never looked back, despite a late surge from Bryant.

The Spurs had squandered a 20-point lead to lose Game 1 in Los Angeles and the Lakers routed them in Game 2.

'They were energised and they played with a lot more emotion, a lot more energy than we did,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

'They were quicker to the ball. And it was quite obvious at times.''

Up 69-57 entering the fourth, the Spurs opened with a 12-4 run, and Parker's lay-up gave them a 20-point lead with a little over eight minutes to play.

Then Bryant did what he does - almost single-handedly pulling his team out of the hole.

He hit four 3-pointers in less than 21/2 minutes, and his last one brought the Lakers to within 76-88 with five minutes to play.

But the Lakers would get no closer, not when the Spurs' title defence would be all but ruined with a Game 3 loss.

Duncan answered with a three-point play to put the Spurs back up by 15 and, not long after that, Brent Barry's steal resulted in a three-point play for Ginobili to make it 97-78 with 3:26 to go.

Reserve Jordan Farmar scored 10 points for the Lakers.

In the first half, Parker was penetrating into the paint, but Ginobili was the big key for the Spurs.

He had 22 points at the break - more than the 17 he scored in Game 1 and Game 2 combined.

And whether or not his injured left ankle was bothering him, he did not need it to explode to the basket because he hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer.

After Bryant's driving dunk past Duncan with 4:57 left in the first quarter put the Lakers up 15-8, Ginobili hit back-to-back threes from the same spot on the wing to get the Spurs to within a point.

'He bounced back the way I thought he would,' Bryant said. 'He is a phenomenal player and he had a spectacular first half.'

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