SAN ANTONIO --
"I don't want to talk about the injury," he kept saying. "It's not about the injury. I just played terrible."
Well, whatever was ailing Ginobili in the first two games of the Western Conference finals -- whether it was the ankle, the fingernail or something else he didn't want to talk about -- it was fully healed in Game 3. The third member of the Spurs' Big Three finally made his presence felt in a big way while leading the Spurs to a 103-84 win that trimmed the Lakers' series lead to 2-1.
After totaling 17 points on 5-of-21 shots in Games 1 and 2, Ginobili (the Spurs' leading scorer in the regular season) found his touch at home, scoring a game-high 30 points, including 5-of-7 from three-point range. Ginobili actually surpassed his two-game point total in the first half alone, as he scored 22 points and hit five three-pointers.
Despite his breakout performance, Ginobili still dismissed the notion that his performance had anything to do with overcoming the nagging injuries.
"As I said the other day, it is not that I felt that much better than Game 2," said Ginobili. "I just played bad. I mean, I am not that good. I can play bad for a game or two. It just can happen and [everyone] was making too much of a big deal out of it."
The only thing that irked Ginobili more than the questions about his injuries was the growing belief that Lakers reserve
"He is such a competitor," said Spurs coach
Ginobili came out aggressively, a fire that was missing in the first two games. He went at Vujacic and knocked down shot after shot in his face as the Spurs ran the offense through him. Ginobili didn't just reclaim his shooting touch, though; he came through during crucial stretches in the first half when the Lakers appeared to be in control.
After the Lakers went on an 8-0 run in the first quarter, Ginobili hit back-to-back three-pointers to cut the L.A. lead to one. Then in the second quarter, after
"We saw a turnaround coming," said
Even Bryant, who has always admired Ginobili's game and Argentina's fluid style of basketball, had to smile at some of the shots Ginobili was making.
"He hit one shot that just made me laugh," said Bryant. "It was right in Sasha's face. It was just great defense. The guy bounced back the way I thought he would. He played well with a nasty-looking fingernail. That thing is disgusting."
Yeah, just don't bring up that injury to Ginobili.