SAN ANTONIO (NBA.com exclusive) -- It seems the bloody noses always go the Spurs' way, because the last time the team saw a cut worse than the one Manu Ginobili got in Game 3's third quarter on Friday night was Steve Nash's in the 2007 Western Conference semifinals.
With Nash on the bench during that game's waning moments back then, the Spurs took another step to their fourth NBA title.
Ginobili had enough time to come back from his broken nose, and it showed. After missing five minutes of the third quarter when he caught an inadvertent elbow from Dirk Nowitzki, Ginobili returned and scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and led San Antonio to a 94-90 victory over the Mavericks in Game 3. The Spurs lead 2-1 in the Western Conference playoff opening series.
Ginobili ended with 15 points, his lowest of the series, but he had a game-high seven assists and a first quarter with two steals and a block that aided in the Mavericks' 16-point opening quarter. Dallas also scored 16 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2.
"He took the game over," said Tim Duncan, who scored 25 points on 11-for-18 shooting in a grueling 43 ½ minutes.
Although the Spurs finished 0-for-7 from the 3-point line, they look more like the team that made that 2007 championship run with Tony Parker's 23 points joining Ginobili's and Duncan's efforts. Parker hit three-straight outside shots in the fourth quarter that gave the Spurs the lead for good.
"We are playing the best basketball of the year, so far," Duncan said. "We are playing our best at the right time."
But the Mavericks looked little like the team that was altered by the trade-deadline deal with Washington. There was Dirk Nowitzki's 35 points, Jason Terry came off the bench for 17 (including 4-for-8 from the 3-point line) and there was another bench boost from J.J. Barea -- he scored 14 and sparked Dallas' 17-0 run in the third quarter that gave the Mavs a 9-point lead.
But Caron Butler, who hit one of his three shots and turned the ball over three times in the first 15 minutes he played, sat the rest of the game and did not play after halftime. There was an occasion during the final moments that when the rest of the team was walking toward coach Rick Carlisle that Butler slowly shuffled over to place his feet on the tacky sheet near midcourt.
"Coach's decision," Carlisle said. "Just went with a group that was going good. That was it. (Barea) made good things happen."
But it was not enough to curtail the Spurs' overall aggression. Though they finished minus-26 from the 3-point line to Dallas, the Spurs got to the free-throw 20 times compared to 14 for Dallas. The Mavericks committed 16 turnovers, and the Spurs outscored the Mavs off mistakes 16-11.
The Mavericks led 81-80 after Nowitzki hit a 12-footer with three minutes left in the game. But Parker scored the Spurs' next six points -- all off jumpers from beyond 17 feet.
"We just gave up that lead too quick," Nowitzki said. "We had a couple of turnovers, a couple of bad plays."
Most bothersome to Nowitzki was the inability to consistently get a transition game going. The teams battled to a draw in fastbreak points, but San Antonio dominated in the paint (56-38) and on putbacks (14-6).
"We showed in the third quarter we need to speed the game up a little bit," Nowitzki said. "(Barea) was getting to the basket a couple of time. The halfcourt set really took our options away."