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Spurs have best Manu for job, beat Heat for 3-2 lead in NBA Finals

Manu Ginobili, previously averaging 7.5 points in series, scores 24 to fuel 114-104 San Antonio victory that pushes LeBron James and Miami to brink of elimination.

June 16, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan

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SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James won four of the last five MVP awards, carried the Miami Heat to a near-historic 27-game winning streak and shot a sublime 57% this season.

Now he's one loss away from another humbling failure, the San Antonio Spurs sticking it to Miami, 114-104, Sunday to take a 3-2 edge in the NBA Finals.

James had another ragged game, Manu Ginobili completely stole the stage and Miami never led in Game 5 at AT&T Center.

BOX SCORE: San Antonio 114, Miami 104

Game 6 is Tuesday in Miami, but Game 7 carries the daunting if-necessary asterisk next to it.

"I have to come up big for sure in Game 6," said James, who is 8-12 in Finals games.

It was San Antonio's turn to plunder in this utterly unpredictable series, the Spurs rediscovering plenty of energy after a 109-93 home loss Thursday.

Part of the credit goes to cantankerous Coach Gregg Popovich, who started Ginobili instead of recently timid center Tiago Splitter.

The Spurs went small but lived large, Ginobili finishing with a season-high 24 points and also 10 assists after stumbling into Sunday with a 7.5-point average and 34.5% accuracy in the first four games.

Ginobili, who made eight of 14 shots, easily offset James' 25 points on eight-for-22 shooting.

Or as the understated Popovich said, the lineup change worked out "fairly well."

Miami had enough firepower to knock a 17-point deficit down to one late in the third quarter, and no one would have dared to predict Spurs fans' chanting "Ma-nu, Ma-nu" minutes later.

Of course it happened.

Ginobili converted a three-point play after drawing a baseline foul on Ray Allen. He buried a hang-in-the-air floater over Norris Cole. He found Splitter for a reverse layup.

Finally, he scored on a six-foot bank shot, blowing past Cole and beating Udonis Haslem's block attempt.

The score through three? Spurs 87, Heat 75, after a 12-1 run to close the quarter.

Ginobili could finally forgive himself.

"I was angry, disappointed. We are playing in the NBA Finals, we were 2-2 and I felt I still wasn't really helping the team that much," he said.

Tony Parker kept showing faith in his longtime teammate, practically promising everybody Ginobili would uncork a slump-buster soon enough.

"I told you Manu was going to play good," Parker said as he surveyed a room of reporters after Game 5. "You didn't believe me."

The timing was perfect for the Spurs, who had two days without games to get Parker's hamstring healthy and ponder the Game 4 loss. And ponder. And ponder.

"Waiting is like death," Popovich said an hour before tipoff, calling the lag "interminable" and lobbying for a shorter wait between Finals games.

Of course, the rest probably helped the aging Spurs.

Parker had 26 points on 10-for-14 shooting and Tim Duncan had an efficient 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Certainly not forgotten, Danny Green continued his surreal long-range attack, scoring 24 points and making six of 10 three-point attempts.

"I can't believe he's still open at this moment of the series," Parker said. "They are still trapping me and doubling Timmy, and Danny is wide open. If you are going to leave Danny wide open, he is going to make threes."

Dwyane Wade continued to play better, collecting 25 points and 10 assists, but the Heat's defense was unconscionably poor, letting San Antonio shoot 60%.

Miami's only solace Sunday was the flight home immediately after the game.

"We have an opportunity on our home floor with our home fans to keep the series going, and we look forward to it," James said.

James was successful once in three previous trips to the Finals, grabbing his elusive first title last season in a five-game romp over Oklahoma City.

This, though, will be a challenge. The Spurs aren't going away. And they're bringing their 4-0 record in previous Finals to Miami.

Duncan called Game 5 a must-win beforehand, adding there would be "huge pressure" if the Spurs had to win two in Miami.

Now the pressure's on Miami. And, of course, James.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitte: @Mike_Bresnahan

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