SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Across three NBA championships and more than 100 playoff victories together, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have built a bond most teammates will never share.
So maybe Ginobili could ignore it when he was suddenly being criticized around San Antonio.
You better believe it bothered the others.
“Yeah, of course,” Parker said. “Because for everything he did for the franchise, I thought it was a little bit too harsh. We understand it’s a business. He came out big tonight.”
Just like Parker said he would.
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 on Sunday night to take a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals.
Parker scored 26 points, 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 percent 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 3-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. “And that was the frustrating part.”
On Sunday, it was all 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 6 on Tuesday night. They need a victory to force the first Game 7 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 1 for 3 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 6,” James said. “We can’t worry about a Game 7, we have to worry about Game 6.”
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 such as the Lakers, Mavericks and Suns have all risen and fallen in the Western Conference during that time.
They remained unbeaten in Game 5s, including two previous victories when the series was tied at 2-2. Of the 27 times the finals have been tied at 2-2, the Game 5 winner has won 20 of them.
Miami was the most recent loser, falling to Dallas in Game 5 in 2011 before being eliminated at home the next game.
“We’re going to see if we’re a better ballclub and if we’re better prepared for this moment,” Wade said.
San Antonio shot 42 of 70, right at 60 percent. The last team to make 60 percent of its shots in the finals was Orlando, which hit 62.5 in Game 3 against the Lakers in 2009, according to STATS.
“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 y mano. That will change.”