AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) – Manu Ginobili left Game 3 of the NBA Finals covered in bruises, from his leg to his pride.

Luckily for the San Antonio Spurs, the Argentine star says he has always been a quick healer. Ginobili, the dynamic star of the Spurs’ victories in the first two games of the series last week, was held to seven points on just six shots in San Antonio’s 96-79 loss. Back home in the Detroit suburbs, the Pistons played with all the poise and aggression they lacked in Texas, bullying Ginobili and Tim Duncan into their worst performances in several weeks.

What’s more, Ginobili collided with Tayshaun Prince while committing an offensive foul just 21 seconds into the night, aggravating a bruise that first popped up near his right knee in the Western Conference finals against Phoenix.

But Ginobili insists the injury won’t limit him in Game 4 on Thursday night, when the Spurs will attempt to avoid just their second back-to-back losses of the postseason. He also believes the Spurs can quickly reclaim the mental edge they held so decisively late in the first two games – and then definitely lost in Game 3. “We didn’t do too many things right,” Ginobili said before Wednesday’s practice at the Palace of Auburn Hills. “We allowed them too many offensive rebounds. We turned the ball over too much. We didn’t execute that well. We made too many mistakes. We have to be ready mentally, to be more focused and play with more aggressiveness. We can’t let them get us on our heels.”

The creative guard controlled the first two games of the series, scoring 53 points and dazzling the hometown fans with a series of difficult shots in the fourth quarters.

Ginobili dazzled nobody in Game 3. His injury and two quick fouls put him on the bench early – and when he returned, Tony Parker was taking the lead in San Antonio’s offense. Unable to find a rhythm, Ginobili made six turnovers and didn’t respond to the Pistons’ increased defensive pressure with any matching urgency.

Detroit coach Larry Brown ran at least four defenders at Ginobili in man-to-man coverage, including stopper Lindsey Hunter. Brown also persuaded his big men to provide quick help on the few occasions Ginobili got into the paint.

It wasn’t a new strategy, but it worked: Ginobili failed to find the defensive seams he exploited so impressively in the first two games.

“They switched a lot, and switched out on to him,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He was in a different game last night. … I think rhythm had a lot to do with his game, and they really did crowd him. We need to do a better job of kicking it to an open person instead of playing to the crowd. And that’s not just him, that’s the team.”

But Popovich believes Ginobili will respond to the setback with a resilience that’s been honed since his days as a teenage prodigy. Though Ginobili has made his first big splash in the NBA postseason this spring, the gold medal-winner is no stranger to huge games and pervasive attention from defenses.

“It’s not such a big difference,” Ginobili said. “You just realize that you draw more attention, and defenses prepare a little more for you. But I deal with that my whole life. Every summer, I play with the (Argentine) national team, where I’m the go-to guy. I played four years (professionally) in Italy, where I was the go-to guy.

“It’s not that it’s something so different, so new for me. It’s just the NBA Finals. … So it can take you out of the basics a little bit, but I don’t feel that it’s going to be a whole problem for me.”

The Spurs also are hoping for a better game from Duncan, limited to 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting in his second-lowest scoring game of the playoffs. The two-time finals MVP was disgusted with himself after the game – and even more peeved after watching film.

“I thought I was a little lackadaisical with the ball,” Duncan said. “I got it knocked away a couple of times, telegraphed a lot of my moves and just made bad moves. It’s about being a little more assertive on the offensive end, being a little more crisp on the offensive end.”

AP-ES-06-15-05 1743EDT


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