SAN ANTONIO -- Manu Ginobili struggled for two games and it seemed he might not have anything left. A sore ankle, a ripped fingernail and plenty of missed shots. All the while, he insisted he would step up for the San Antonio Spurs.
He kept his promise on Sunday night. And nobody on either team was surprised.
"He is such a competitor," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after Ginobili scored 30 points to lead the Spurs to a 103-84 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. "He puts so much on his shoulders, he fights through a lot of things. ... He's got a lot of confidence in what he can do.
"And so when he has these games, it is really not a surprise anymore."
Ginobili hit five of the Spurs' 10 3-pointers and got to the rim a few times to keep the defending champions from falling into an 0-3 hole, which no NBA team has ever overcome.
"I was too stagnant in the first two games," said Ginobili, the league's top sixth man who came off the bench on Sunday. "I didn't feel like I was being me. ... I made the first shots. I felt good. And then it was easier for me."
The Lakers lead the series 2-1. Game 4 will be Tuesday in San Antonio.
"It's a good experience for us to play against the defending champs and have them kick our butts the way they did," Bryant said. "I think we grew up a lot tonight."
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.
"On me personally it definitely snowballed," Odom said. "That happens, but sometimes I'd rather go out swinging than being passive. It was just one of those nights."
The Lakers also struggled at the free throw line, going only 8-for-17. Bryant went to the line only once.
On Sunday, the Spurs got a lead midway through the second quarter and never looked back, despite a late surge from Bryant.
The Spurs had squandered a 20-point lead to lose Game 1 in Los Angeles and the Lakers routed them in Game 2.
"They were energized and they played with a lot more emotion, a lot more energy than we did," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "They were quicker to the ball. And it was quite obvious at times."
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 over eight minutes to play.
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 to play.
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 Brent Barry's steal that resulted in a three-point play for Ginobili made it 97-78 with 3:26 to go.
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 the break -- more than the 17 he scored in Games 1 and 2 combined. And whether or not his injured left ankle was bothering him, he didn't need it to explode to the basket because he hit 3 after 3.
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 3s from the same spot on the wing to get the Spurs within a point.
"He bounced back the way I thought he would," Bryant said. "He is a phenomenal player and he had a spectacular first half."
He didn't stop in the second quarter.
His second of back-to-back treys 4½ minutes in put the Spurs up 33-30, giving his team the lead for good. 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 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 the break.
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 only 10 points as Spurs' defender Bruce Bowen continued to hound the newly crowned league MVP.
Ginobili cooled in the third quarter -- when the Spurs went up by as many as 13 -- just as Duncan got hot. Duncan's two jump shots with less than two minutes to play, plus Ginobili's drive that showed he can still get to the rim, gave the Spurs a 12-point lead heading into the fourth.
"I don't feel like my last step is as strong as probably a couple months ago, but it's not a big issue," Ginobili said. "I mean, I think I can still finish."
- The Spurs last lost at home on April 9 to Phoenix. San Antonio eliminated the Suns in the first round in five games.
- Fisher got a technical foul with 4:45 left in the third quarter just after teammate Vladimir Radmanovic hit a layup to bring the Lakers within eight.
- In a dig at Bryant, the crowd chanted "M-V-P" when Duncan went to the line late in the fourth quarter.
- Ginobili got a standing ovation from the crowd when he went to the bench with 2:56 to play.
- Fisher finished with two points on 1-of-4 shooting.
- The Spurs hit 10 treys, the Lakers hit six.