SAN ANTONIO -- There was no third-quarter breakdown for the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night, just the desperate play of a team whose quest for a second straight NBA title was on the line. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili both scored 31 points to lead the Spurs to a 110-99 victory over the New Orleans Hornets in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals.
With the win, the Spurs avoided falling into an ominous 0-3 hole from which no NBA team has never returned.
San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, center, of Argentina, drives to the basket as New Orleans Hornets center Tyson Chandler (6) defends during the first quarter of Game 3 of an NBA Western Conference semifinal basketball series Thursday, May 8, 2008, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Chris Paul led the Hornets, who still hold a 2-1 series lead, with 35 points and nine assists. David West had 23 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans, which was dominant in the first two games of the series.
Game 4 is Sunday night in San Antonio.
With the Spurs' win, the home teams are 10-0 in the four conference semifinal series.
After trading leads all night, the Spurs led 83-78 entering the fourth quarter.
Ginobili led a Spurs charge early in the final period. Left alone, he hit a wide-open 3 and was fouled by Bonzi Wells, who scrambled at him to guard the shot. Ginobili's free throw put San Antonio up 87-82, and another 3 by Ginobili 38 seconds later made it 90-84.
New Orleans got within 90-88 before the Spurs took over, playing out the fourth quarter better than they have played all series.
San Antonio went on an 11-0 burst featuring Ginobili, Parker and Tim Duncan to take a 101-88 lead with 5:57 to play.
The Spurs couldn't stop Paul, but West missed three of four free throws and the Hornets got no closer than 10 points in the latter half of the quarter.
The Spurs outscored the Hornets 27-21 in the fourth with Parker and Ginobili combining for 17 points.
Duncan had 16 points and 13 rebounds.
The Hornets took an 8-0 lead in the first quarter before the Spurs evened things and started the second quarter down 23-21.
While Bruce Bowen was largely successful in containing 3-point sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic in the first half, West and Paul, the stars of Games 1 and 2, were let loose and shot a combined 14-of-21 to account for 30 of the Hornets' points at halftime.
Tyson Chandler dunked alley-oop passes from West, Paul and Wells in the first half, each time quieting the raucous Spurs crowd that took to booing both the officials and the Hornets.
The Spurs led by as many as four points in the second quarter after Michael Finley, who came off the bench because usual reserve Ginobili started, hit a corner 3 to give San Antonio a 41-37 lead.
After Parker hit a jumper with 49 seconds to play in the first half, Stojakovic and Morris Peterson each hit 3s to leave the Spurs down 56-49 with 23 seconds left. But Bowen hit a 3 and Ginobili hit a buzzer-beating jumper to bring San Antonio within 56-54 at halftime.
Duncan was quiet in the first half with just five points as New Orleans' double-teams continued to hamper him.
In the third the Spurs did not break down as they did in Games 1 and 2 when New Orleans took control. Their Big 3 - Duncan, Parker and Ginobili - took over, scoring all but three of San Antonio's 29 points in the period.
But the Hornets wouldn't go away as Paul scored 11 points in the quarter. Late in the period he hit a shot when he flipped up the ball as he spun around and put his back to the basket. Paul also got fouled for a three-point play to bring the Hornets within 77-76.
Notes: Paul's shoes read "Brian!" in white lettering in honor of an 8-year-old fan with cancer who was set to attend Monday's Game 2 but missed it with a fever and died hours later. ... Paul was named first-team All-NBA on Thursday. Duncan was named to the second team and Ginobili the third. ... Paul's right knee was wrapped at the Hornets' shootaround on Thursday morning. Coach Byron Scott said he was a bit banged up, but fine. ... Stojakovic finished with eight points. Chandler had 12. ... Bowen scored 12 points for San Antonio and Finley had 11.