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In return from injury, Ginobili sparks Spurs past Pacers

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- When he arrived at the SBC Center on Tuesday,
Manu Ginobili didn't know if he would be sitting out yet another
game.

But Ginobili talked coach Gregg Popovich into letting him play,
then made his biggest contributions at just the right time.

Ginobili, who missed eight games with a sprained right foot,
made a free throw and two layups to start the decisive
third-quarter run as the San Antonio Spurs pulled away for a 99-86
win over the Indiana Pacers.

"I came to the arena with a jacket on, so I didn't know if I
was going to play or not," Ginobili said. "But I convinced Pop to
let me play. I thought that it was really important to get some
confidence back."

Tony Parker led the Spurs with 27 points and Ginobili added nine
on 3-for-7 shooting.

The Pacers led 60-57 midway through the third after a layup by
Jamaal Tinsley, but the Spurs took control with a 16-3 spurt.

After Ginobili's points, Parker added a pair of free throws and
a layup, and Robert Horry made the first of his two 3-pointers. At
the other end, the Spurs held Indiana without a basket for more
than 4½ minutes beginning late in the third.

"The defense seemed to get better as the game went on,"
Popovich said. "It's a progression we like to see."

Indiana made 12 of its first 19 shots (63 percent), but missed
21 of its first 31 attempts in the second half en route to its
third straight loss.

"We have to establish some consistency," Indiana coach Rick
Carlisle said. "We have to have more intensity on defense because
that leads to opportunities on offense."

The Pacers trimmed San Antonio's lead to 76-71 early in the
fourth on a short jumper by Jermaine O'Neal. Tim Duncan then banked
in a 14-footer and swished a 16-footer, both over Jeff Foster, and
Nazr Mohammed made a basket to restore the lead to double digits
with 5 minutes remaining.

"Right now we are just an average team," said O'Neal, who led
the Pacers with 26 points. "Elite teams find a way to make
plays."

Duncan added 26 points for the Spurs. No other Spurs were in
double figures.

Tinsley scored 20 for Indiana, while Fred Jones had 14 and
Stephen Jackson 13.

Ginobili entered the game to a long standing ovation with 4:36
left in the first quarter and the Spurs down 18-15. He quickly
found Parker with a pass for a layup and then hit a 10-foot jumper
while falling out of bounds to even the score at 20.

Parker and Duncan each had 11 points in the first, but the
Pacers' accurate shooting put them up 29-27 after one.

A 3-pointer by San Antonio's Nick Van Exel tied it at 38 midway
through the second, but the Spurs then went scoreless for more than
3 minutes.

Indiana built its lead to six points late in the period before
Ginobili made two free throws and Parker had a breakaway layup to
cut the Pacers' lead to 48-46 at halftime.

O'Neal scored 10 points in the second and finished the half with
17.

Game Notes
The Spurs now hold a 34-33 advantage over the Pacers in the
all-time series. ... Duncan had been wearing his hair long this
season, but on Tuesday he was cropped close to the scalp and had
shaved his beard. ... The Spurs made 11 of their 21 free throws in
the first three quarters, but went 11-for-13 at the line in the
fourth. ... The Pacers' Austin Croshere played only 10 minutes, 16
fewer than his average, and scored two points.