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Spurs look sluggish, Pistons send message



Published: Wed, June 15, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Detroit shut down San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- In the opening 21 seconds of Game 3, Manu Ginobili discovered the San Antonio Spurs' march to an NBA title won't be nearly as easy up north.

Ginobili, whose creativity and big shots highlighted the first two games of the NBA Finals in Texas, began the third game with a bad inbounds pass, which was stolen and emphatically dunked by Ben Wallace.

Moments later, he banged knees with Tayshaun Prince while getting called for an offensive foul, forcing him to head to the bench for four minutes.

The night never got much better for Ginobili, who finished with just seven points in the Spurs' 96-79 loss. He took six shots and made six turnovers, spending the final minutes of the game with a sour expression on his face while rapper Eminem, a Detroit fan, cheered over his shoulder near the Spurs' bench.

But all the Argentine star's teammates also looked lost in their first trip to Michigan since a regular-season loss in March. Bad passes, poor execution, little late-game poise -- the Spurs' play was reminiscent of the Pistons' lackluster showings in the first two games, and their lead in the best-of-seven series was trimmed to 2-1.

Keeping it close

San Antonio kept it close through the first three quarters despite a noticeable lack of passion. The Spurs simply didn't seem to be working as hard -- or if they were, they got much less out of it.

San Antonio committed 18 turnovers, and Tim Duncan went 5-for-15 from the field. Nazr Mohammed and Robert Horry made only small contributions, and nobody stepped up in the final minutes.

By the fourth quarter, the Spurs' struggles to execute even the simplest offensive sets mirrored the Pistons' ineptitude in San Antonio. Tony Parker, who had 21 points, and Horry were among the Spurs who threw up long airballs, while Detroit fast-breaked its way to a comfortable late lead.

Ginobili's frustrations were obvious as the Pistons ran a succession of defenders at him, using Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and even Prince at different points. It wasn't clear whether he was limited by his injured knee.

When Ginobili fouled Billups near midcourt early in the fourth quarter, he put his hands on his knees and panted as the crowd went crazy celebrating Detroit's nine-point lead.

"We just tried to pressure him," Hamilton said. "We didn't want him to get out front and make plays for his teammates."




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