The reigning NBA champions San Antonio Spurs battled back into their playoff semi-final series on Sunday with a 103-84 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Manu Ginobili returned to form with 30 points and Tim Duncan scored 20 points with 21 rebounds as the Spurs rebounded from two defeats in Los Angeles to narrow the gap to 2-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference final series.
The winner of the series will advance to the NBA Finals.
Tony Parker scored 20 points as the Spurs avoided falling into a 0-3 hole and remained unbeaten at home in this postseason.
San Antonio, whose top trio of Ginobili, Duncan and Parker combined for 73 points, now have the opportunity to knot the series at 2-2 when they host game four today.
Duncan said he and the rest of the team knew they had to step it up against a Lakers team led by NBA Most Valuable Player Kobe Bryant.
“We expected to play this thing from horn to horn, that’s what we came in here thinking about and wanted to do,” he said. “When it comes down to it, players have got to play. Manu brought that to the table, Tony did a great job tonight. We got some big contributions from our bench.”
“It doesn’t matter what the game plan is, doesn’t matter how you draw it up — people have to show up, people have to put performances on the floor,” Duncan said.
Bryant scored 30 points and Pau Gasol added 15 for the Lakers, who were held under 20 points in both the second and third quarters.
The Spurs, who led 69-57 after three quarters, opened the final period on a 12-4 run that stretched their lead to 20 points with 8:10 to play.
Ginobili, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year converted a three-point play that gave San Antonio a 97-78 with 3:26 left in the game, and Bryant and Gasol went to the bench shortly thereafter.
Bryant had kept things interesting midway through the fourth period when he scored nine points on three possessions.
He hit a 3-pointer with less than five remaining that cut the deficit to 88-76, but Duncan’s strong move on the next possession over Gasol turned into a three-point play.
Ginobili, who scored just 17 points combined in the first two games, had 22 points by half-time.
“I am kind of surprised with the points that I scored,” Ginobili said. “I knew I was going to be more aggressive. I made five threes in the first half, that got me going. That was the only difference, I just played more aggressive and made more shots.”
The Lakers held an early lead when Ginobili hit back-to back 3-pointers with 3:35 left in the first quarter to trim the lead to 15-14.
With 9:08 to play in the second, a Lakers turnover led to a bounce pass from Brent Barry to a blazing Parker to give the Spurs their first lead, 27-26, since early in the first.
Ginobili then struck again, hitting back-to-back threes for the Spurs with just over seven minutes left in the second.
Ginobili tested his luck late in the first half with a fadeaway 3-pointer with 58 seconds remaining that put the Spurs up 49-37. Bryant answered with a layup that made it a 10-point half-time deficit.
“He hit a lot of big shots,” Bryant said of Ginobili. “I’ve seen him do it before, he gets extremely aggressive, starts knocking down shots and plays with a lot of energy. He played well.”
Also key, said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, was Bruce Bowen’s job defending Bryant.
“As most of us say, you can’t stop Kobe but you want him to work hard for what he gets, and I think he had to work hard tonight, Popovich said.
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