Ginobili's surprise start sparks Spurs

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By JON KRAWCZYNSKI, Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Manu Ginobili had 11 points and six assists in a surprise start to spark the San Antonio Spurs to a 61-52 halftime lead over the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night.

Tim Duncan had 13 points and six rebounds for San Antonio. Danny Green scored 13 points and tied Ray Allen's finals record with his 22nd 3-pointer of the series for the Spurs, who entered their last home game of the series tied with the Heat at two games apiece.

LeBron James scored 16 for the Heat and Dwyane Wade added 14 points, but the Heat missed 21 of their first 29 shots to fall behind by 17 points early in the second quarter.

Game 6 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night in Miami.

Kawhi Leonard had nine points and five rebounds and Tony Parker scored 11 points on that tender right hamstring for the Spurs. San Antonio shot 61.8 percent for the half, closing on a 15-2 run.

Chris Bosh had 10 points and five rebounds for the Heat. Miami missed 12 of its first 17 shots and looked a little stunned by Ginobili in the early going.

Green hit three straight 3s in the middle of the second quarter to tie Allen's record. The Spurs led 47-30 on Duncan's two free throws before the Heat finally showed some fight.

Wade scored on two strong takes to the basket and James, who started 2 for 6 with no rebounds and one assist in the first 18 minutes, threw down a dunk in transition. Allen had a four-point play and James squeezed past Duncan for a reverse to complete a 12-0 run and get back into the game.

Ginobili's three free throws and a layup by Parker just before the halftime buzzer gave the Spurs some more breathing room.

Nowhere to be found in the first four games, and for most of these playoffs, Ginobili had his fingerprints all over the opening of Game 5. He hit a step-back jumper, had two pretty assists on a backdoor cut from Green and a thunderous dunk from Duncan and knocked down two free throws for an early 9-4 lead.

Ginobili's 3-pointer from the wing made it 15-10, bringing the nervous crowd to its feet. The awakening was a welcome sign for the Spurs, who desperately missed their playmaking daredevil. He was averaging only 7.5 points and shooting 34 percent in his first four games.

The Heat reclaimed momentum in Game 4 thanks to a shuffle of the starting lineup by coach Erik Spoelstra, who moved sharp-shooter Mike Miller into the starting lineup in Udonis Haslem's place, giving Miami a smaller lineup that spaced the floor better and gave James and Wade room to operate.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made a move to match that on Sunday night, putting the struggling Ginobili in for center Tiago Splitter.

The crowd roared for Ginobili when he was introduced last, with one banner reading "We still Gino-believe!"

Wade had endured a similarly quiet start to these finals before erupting for 32 points and six steals in Miami's Game 4 victory that evened the series. That carried over to the opening quarter of Game 5, when Wade's assertive play helped Miami withstand Ginobili's initial haymaker.

Wade's trademark euro-step on the break and two free throws kept the game tight and James hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 17 with under 5 minutes to play in the period.

The two teams entered Game 5 riding a pendulum of momentum that was swinging wildly back and forth over the previous three games. A classic, air-tight Game 1 victory by the Spurs gave way to three blowouts — Miami by 19 in Game 1, San Antonio by 36 in Game 3 and the Heat by 16 in Game 4.

The volatility made it difficult for either team to feel like it had a grip on expectations heading into the pivotal Game 5, but the Heat did appear to finally assert themselves with a dominant performance from their three All-Stars on Thursday night.

James, Wade and Bosh broke out of a series-long malaise to combine for 85 points, 30 rebounds and 10 steals, finally finding a way to get to the rim against the paint-clogging Spurs defense. Then they sleep-walked through much of the first half on Sunday to give the Spurs some hope.

The one common thread that has held this series together is the ability of each team to respond after appearing to be on the ropes. With Parker's right hamstring ailing, Ginobili's struggles and the Heat's three stars starting to roll, the Spurs were in serious trouble.

There was so much more riding on this game for the Spurs than the Heat, who reclaimed homecourt advantage with their decisive victory in Game 4. Under the current 2-3-2 format that was adopted in 1985, no visiting team has won both Games 6 and 7 on the road in the finals.

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