Manu Ginobili helps San Antonio Spurs take 3-2 lead over Miami Heat in NBA finals
Argentinian veteran's 24 points and 10 assists in his first start of the season helps his team take a 3-2 lead against the Miami Heat in NBA finals
Manu Ginobili ran onto the floor as fans stood and screamed.
He went to the bench, and they chanted his name.
The sights and sounds of so many San Antonio spring nights were back - and the real party might be close at hand.
Argentinian Ginobili broke out of a slump in a big way with 24 points and 10 assists in his first start of the season, and the Spurs beat the Miami Heat 114-104 to take a 3-2 lead in the NBA finals.
Tony Parker scored 26 points, Tim Duncan had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Ginobili had his highest-scoring game of the season as the Spurs became the first team to shoot 60 per cent in a finals game in four years.
"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," Duncan 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."
Danny Green smashed the NBA finals record for three-pointers, hitting six more and scoring 24 points. Kawhi Leonard finished with 16, but the stage was set when Ginobili trotted out with Duncan, Parker and the rest of starters in what could have been the last finals home game for a trio that's meant so much to San Antonio.
One more victory and the Spurs' Big Three, not Miami's, will be the one that rules the NBA.
And a big reason was Ginobili, as he's been for so long - just not during what had been a miserable series for the former Sixth Man of the Year.
"I was angry, disappointed," Ginobili said. "We are playing in the NBA finals, we were 2-2, and I felt I still wasn't really helping the team that much," Ginobili said. "That was the frustrating part."
On Sunday, all was forgotten.
"He's obviously very popular. He's been here a long time. He's helped us have a lot of success over the years," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each scored 25 points for the Heat, who host game six tomorrow morning (Hong Kong time). They need a victory to force the first game seven in the finals since the Lakers beat the Celtics in 2010.
Miami's Big Three formed a few weeks after that game, with predictions of multiple titles to follow. Now they're a loss away from going just one for three in finals to start their partnership, while the Spurs could run their perfect record to 5 for 5.
"This is the position we're in and the most important game is game six," James said. "We can't worry about a game seven, we have to worry about game six."
Duncan won his first title in 1999, and Parker and Ginobili were with him for three championships since. They have been the perfect partnership, keeping the Spurs in the hunt virtually every year while teams like the Lakers, Mavericks and Suns have all risen and fallen in the Western Conference during that time.
"They just absolutely outplayed us," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "At times they were just picking one guy out at a time and going at us mano-a-mano. That's got to change."
Ray Allen scored 21 points on the night for the Heat as he watched Green shatter his finals three-point record. Green has 25 threes in the series.
Allen made 22 three-pointers in six games in 2008 finals for Boston.