SAN ANTONIO (AP)—The physical style of play returned in Game 3, and it seemed to bring out the best in the San Antonio Spurs again.
“No big deal, I guess,” said Ginobili, who had the kind of night San Antonio needed after he had poor performances in Games 1 and 2, when he scored eight and six points, respectively.
Game 4 is Monday night in San Antonio.
Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 33 points—13 in the fourth quarter—and 19 rebounds.
“It looked pretty bad actually, it still looks pretty bad,” Duncan said of Ginobili. “But … it fixed his shot, so it might be the other eye on Monday.”
Ginobili scored 12 points in the third quarter and 10 in the last 1:58. Even after he got hit in the eye on a drive to the basket, he hit a jumper, three free throws and a 3-pointer to put the Spurs up 80-72 going into the final quarter.
Nash was scoreless in the first half and finished with 16 points. He had 10 points in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough as the Suns only got as close as six twice in the fourth. Nash also had 11 assists.
“I just had a bad game, and it’s frustrating to have it in such a big game but it happens from time to time,” Nash said. “Although they did play me tough, I still had my chances and it just didn’t bounce for me tonight.”
“I think I poked him in the eye,” Marion said. “It was an accident, but I mean, it’s part of the game. I didn’t do it on purpose.”
Marion led the Suns with 26 points. Amare Stoudemire finished with 21, but was in foul trouble for most of the second half.
“There’s nothing I could do about it at that point,” Stoudemire said. “I just had to watch my guys fight and keep it close. They did that, they just couldn’t pull it out.”
The Suns were within 104-98 with 1:42 to go.
Bruce Bowen’s 3-pointer with 8 minutes left in the third was the go-ahead basket for San Antonio and gave it a 62-60 lead.
The tension of the playoff series between two of the league’s top teams was heightened after Stoudemire on Thursday called the Spurs a “dirty team” and specifically called out Bowen, saying he purposely kicked him during the Suns’ Game 2 win on Tuesday, and Ginobili.
Stoudemire said the hostile reaction from the crowd motivated him.
“I love it. I hope they keep it up,” Stoudemire said.
Tony Parker had 16 points for San Antonio and Bowen added 10.
Nash missed all four of his first-half attempts.
“I’d better do something,” Nash said, looking ahead to Game 4. “I can’t just not contribute at all. I’m always going to try to be aggressive and I try to take what the defense gives me. If I’m there to shoot, I’ve got to keep shooting. If I’m drawing attention and can pass to a teammate, that’s the play I try to make.”
But his teammates picked up the slack. Bell’s back-to-back 3s early in the second quarter helped Phoenix build a 10-point lead over San Antonio with just over nine minutes to play in the half.
And Stoudemire fueled Phoenix with 5-of-7 shooting from the field.
The Spurs’ first 3 of the game—they missed their first seven attempts— came from Michael Finley with 7.9 seconds remaining to give the Spurs a 55-53 lead at the break.
Nash got his first point of the game at the beginning of the third quarter, when he made one of two free throws. To the delight of Spurs fans, Stoudemire quickly picked up his third and fourth fouls and went to the bench for the rest of the quarter with 10:35 remaining.
Then the Spurs started making 3s. Brent Barry hit one with 8:14 left in the third to start a 10-0 Spurs run. Bowen followed with back-to-back 3s to put the Spurs up 65-60.
Nash was 0-of-9 from the field before he made his first basket with five minutes left in the third to bring the Suns within 66-62.
Stoudemire was back at the beginning of the fourth, but his fifth foul with 11:41 to go sent him to the bench again. And his missed alley-oop dunk off a pass from Nash with 1:12 to go punctuated Phoenix’s bad night.
Marion also had 10 points in the fourth.
Responding to questions about Stoudemire’s comments before the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said: “Amare’s a great player—he’s very young.” … American Idol contestant Haley Scarnato of San Antonio sang the national anthem. Scarnato was voted off the show in April. … Game 3 was the second time this season Nash didn’t score during the first half. The first time came when the Suns visited Toronto on Jan. 3. … Suns coach Mike D’Antoni was given a technical foul with 7:29 left in the fourth after San Antonio stole the ball from Nash. … Fans chanted “Dirty! Dirty!” when Stoudemire went to the foul line. … The Suns had 16 turnovers for 23 points and the Spurs had 11 turnovers for 16 points. … The Spurs finished 7-of-20 from 3-point range, while the Suns were 9-of-17.