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Ginobili returns from broken nose, helps Spurs grab 2-1 series lead

SAN ANTONIO -- Blood dripped from Manu Ginobili's nose. He had caught an elbow from Dirk Nowitzki, then disappeared into the locker room while leaving a trail of red blotches behind him on the tunnel floor.

He didn't know yet his nose was broken. That diagnosis would have to wait.

Ginobili still had work to do, so he patched up his gushing nose with a bandage and came back late in the third, then scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 94-90 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.

The Spurs took a 2-1 lead by surviving the first shot at home from the NBA's best road team. The Mavs will try again Sunday night in Game 4 -- or risk facing a steep deficit.

"If Dirk or Jason Kidd get hurt, people like that who are ultimate competitors, they play unless they can't do it," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "That's what [Manu] did."

Ginobili was diagnosed with a nasal fracture and did not speak to the media after the game. He was scheduled to undergo a CT scan on Saturday.

The Mavs have their own problems to diagnose. Nowitzki made good on his vow after the Game 2 loss to hit the looks he got last time, scoring 35 points.

He and J.J. Barea jump-started the Mavs back into the game with a 17-0 run in the third quarter that gave Dallas a lead for only the second time in the series since their Game 1 win when Nowitzki had 36 points.

Nowitzki had help in that game -- notably from Caron Butler, who had 22 in the victory. But Butler never left the bench in the second half on Friday as coach Rick Carlisle instead went instead with Barea in the backcourt.

Butler went from being a major force in Game 1 to being nonexistent by Game 3. He made just one of three shots and finished with two points, which comes after he averaged 19.5 points in two games in Dallas.

Carlisle said the Mavs needed penetration. Barea did help the Mavs build a 68-59 lead in the third, but the lead didn't last long.

"The only thing I can look at now is missed opportunities," Mavs guard Jason Terry said. "You've got a nine-point lead in the latter stages of the game. A good team, a championship team, holds that lead and walks away with it."

The Mavs will spend between now and Sunday trying to figure out how to even this series. A start might be figuring out what happened to Nowitzki's supporting cast.

Terry scored 17 points and Barea had 14.

"Coach just goes with whoever is working that night and we went with a three-guard lineup," Nowitzki said. "It was working for a while but we didn't seem to have enough down the stretch."

The run came when Ginobili was out. Blood dripped from his nose after taking the inadvertent elbow from Nowitzki, who had jumped to take a shot. Ginobili left for the locker room and returned 5 minutes later.

When he did come back, the Spurs said it was "up to his ability to tolerate the pain."

He managed just fine.

"I had no doubt that he was going to return," Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. "He has a strong nose on him."

Aside from Game 4, Sunday is also when Duncan turns 34 -- but so far in this series, he's looked practically ageless. He scored 25 points for the second straight game, and has the Spurs in position to possibly celebrate a commanding lead in this series if they can win on his birthday.

Tony Parker had 23 points off the bench while continuing to thrive in the sixth man role that Ginobili held for so many years. He hit a 20-footer to give the Spurs the lead for good with 2:34 left, then made another from the corner the next time down to push the lead to three.

That was as close as Dallas would get.

The Mavs must now lean on their NBA-best road record during the regular season to try and get a split before the series returns to Dallas for Game 5.

Coming off 27 points in the series opener and 25 points in Game 2, Duncan resumed a playoff career of giving the Mavericks fits. He made baseline turnarounds over Erick Dampier, swished jumpers from the perimeter and capped a 12-0 run in the first with a wide-open dunk.

Duncan labored down the stretch of the regular season. But he's now put together three consecutive 20-point games for the first time since January.

The Mavs came into the series lauded for their deep roster. But over the last two games, the Spurs have looked like the team with more weapons. This time it was George Hill helping San Antonio's Big Three, scored 17 points.

Game notes
The Spurs got some good news Friday: Ginobili said he will not play for the Argentina national team this summer at the world championships in Turkey. Ginobili's wife is expecting to give birth to twin boys in a month, and he said he's looking forward to his first healthy offseason in two years. ... The Spurs missed all seven 3-point attempts.