Ginobili didn't let anything stop him with Game 5 -- and perhaps
an entire first-round series -- on the line.
Buffered by the support of his teammates and a home crowd,
Ginobili scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, helping
the San Antonio Spurs hold off the Sacramento Kings 109-98 Tuesday
night to take a pivotal 3-2 series lead.
"I felt better, no doubt," Ginobili said. "It wasn't that
hard to feel better than Game 3 and Game 4."
Bonzi Wells led Sacramento with 38 points and Artest had 24, but
their two-man show wasn't enough against a deep Spurs attack led by
Ginobili shot 9-of-14 and added nine rebounds and four assists.
He helped seal the victory with six straight free throws in the
final period, the perfect tonic for his turnover that led to
Sacramento's winning shot in the closing seconds of Game 3.
"I just calmed down a bit," said Ginobili, who had only 11
points over the last two games. "I was too frustrated in Game 4
because of what happened in Game 3. I tried to forget everything
and play more calm, letting things come to me. I didn't force the
"Manu is a competitor," Duncan said. "Mentally, he was
prepared and he was ready to go tonight. He wanted to really come
out here and attack these guys and not settle for anything less."
When Wells capped a 14-point rally to tie the game with 3:36 to
go, Ginobili immediately answered with a layup right through the
middle of the defense -- Artest and all. He went to the rim again
soon after, making another layup for a 99-95 lead. The Kings never
got closer than three points the rest of the way.
"We couldn't get over that hump," Wells said. "They had too
many inside layups. They do an excellent job spreading us out and
getting the ball into Tony Parker or Ginobili's hands."
Artest said the big offensive effort was wasted because "we
didn't get any stops."
"We just didn't execute tonight on defense," he said.
Eighth-seeded Sacramento still has a chance to pull off the
upset, but it won't be easy. The Kings must win Friday night at
home to force a Game 7 in San Antonio on Sunday.
"Nobody is counting us out, except maybe Spurs fans," Artest
said. "We'll be all right."
After consecutive losses in Sacramento, the defending champion
Spurs weren't about to stumble into their first three-game losing
streak of the season.
Chalk it up partly to their championship pedigree, one that's
been forged on Game 5 wins in series tied 2-2. Seriously.
This is the seventh time they've been in such a predicament and
the sixth time they've won the pivotal fifth game. They did it
three times en route to the 2003 championship and twice on their
way to last year's title. They've followed that formula in both
those NBA Finals, too.
In fact, Game 5 winners in best-of-seven series that are tied at
2 have advanced 107 of 128 times in NBA history, a whopping 83.5
"We are just going to try and change those percentages," Wells
The Spurs opened a 10-point lead early in the second quarter,
but Wells led the Kings back. His nasty dunk with 54 seconds left
put Sacramento ahead and Artest stretched it with a layup in the
closing seconds for a 46-43 halftime lead.
Wells kept going in the start of the third quarter; at one
point, he was 10-of-13 and his teammates were 12-of-38.
"Bonzi's been a one-man wrecking crew," Duncan said.
That one-man force was enough for the Kings to be up 54-51 four
minutes into the third quarter. Then came a spread-the-wealth
approach by the Spurs -- a 9-0 run featuring points from four
different players that eventually led to a 14-point lead early in
the fourth quarter.
Artest got rolling in the final period, hitting a layup that got
the Kings within 91-88. Wells' tying 3 followed.
"The crazy thing is, we shot 57 percent and beat them in
rebounds (40-30) and we still were so close," Ginobili said.
"They are playing great. We really got to respect them and think
about playing even better than today."
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and several players were delayed
getting to the arena by a hail storm that hit the area about three
hours before the game. ... San Antonio started Robert Horry at
center. Nazr Mohammed started the first three games, then Rasho
Nesterovic got the nod for Game 4. ... Parker made a buzzer-beating
3-pointer at the end of the first quarter. An even longer one at
the end of the second quarter was released too late.