- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2008

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs opened another big lead over the Los Angeles Lakers last night. This time, they kept it.

Manu Ginobili broke out of his scoring slump with 30 points off the bench, and the Spurs beat the Lakers 103-84 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

Tim Duncan had 22 points, 21 rebounds and five assists, and Tony Parker added 20 points for the Spurs, who remained unbeaten at home this postseason and avoided falling into an 3-0 hole, which no NBA team has overcome.

The Lakers lead the series 2-1. Game 4 is tomorrow in San Antonio.

The Spurs squandered a 20-point lead to lose Game 1 in Los Angeles, and the Lakers routed them in Game 2.

Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 30 points, and Paul Gasol scored 15. Lamar Odom struggled all night, finishing 2-for-11 from the field for seven points. But he had six of the Lakers‘ 13 assists and 11 rebounds.

The Lakers also struggled at the free throw line, going just 8-for-17.

Last night, the Spurs got a lead midway through the second quarter and kept it despite a late surge from Bryant.

Up 69-57 entering the fourth, the Spurs opened with a 12-4 run, and Parker’s layup gave them a 20-point lead with a little more than eight minutes left.

Then Bryant did what Bryant does: almost single-handedly pulled his team out of the hole. He hit four 3-pointers over the course of less than 2½ minutes, and his last one brought the Lakers within 88-76 with five minutes left.

But the Lakers would get no closer, not when the Spurs‘ title defense would be all but ruined with a Game 3 loss.

Duncan answered with a three-point play to put the Spurs back up by 15, and not long after that Brent Barry’s steal resulted in a three-point play for Ginobili that made it 97-78 with 3:26 left.

Reserve Jordan Farmar scored 10 points for the Lakers.

In the first half, Parker was penetrating the paint, but Ginobili was the big key for the Spurs. He had 22 points at halftime — more than the 17 he scored in Games 1 and 2 combined. And even his injured left ankle was bothering him, he didn’t need it to explode to the basket because he hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer.

After Bryant’s driving dunk past Duncan with 4:57 left in the first quarter put the Lakers up 15-8, Ginobili hit back-to-back 3-pointers from the same spot on the wing to get the Spurs within a point.

He didn’t stop in the second quarter.

His 3-pointer 4½ minutes in put the Spurs up 33-30, then he got to the rim about 30 seconds later and was fouled. His free throw made it 36-32.

The Lakers struggled in the second quarter — turning the ball over early in the period on a shot-clock violation, missing free throws and shooting 7-for-17 from the field — and the Spurs pulled away.

Ginobili hit his fifth 3-pointer of the night as the shot clock expired with less than a minute left in the first half. The Spurs outscored the Lakers 28-15 in the second quarter for a 49-39 lead at halftime.

Odom was 1-for-7 from the field in the first half, and guard Derek Fisher was scoreless.

Odom didn’t fare any better in the third, and Gasol and Bryant combined for just 10 points as Spurs defender Bruce Bowen continued to hound this year’s league MVP.

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