Playing with a bandage across his nose after getting popped by Dirk Nowitzki's elbow, Ginobili returned to the game and helped the San Antonio Spurs hold on in a wild fourth quarter for a 94-90 win over Dallas on Friday night.
Ginobili scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter with a possibly broken nose.
That detail wasn't going to be known until after the game. What is certain is that the Spurs took a 2-1 lead by surviving the NBA's best road team, and Nowitzki torching the Spurs for 35 points after a shaky Game 2.
Game 4 is Sunday in San Antonio.
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.
The Mavs will spend between now and then trying to figure out how to even this series. A start might be figuring out what happened to Nowitzki's supporting cast.
Jason Terry scored 17 points and J.J. Barea had 14, but Caron Butler never left the bench in the second half and finished with two points.
Nowitzki made good on his vow to make the baskets he missed in Game 2. He shot 13 of 23 from the field and jump-started a 17-0 run in the third quarter that got the Mavs back into the game -- and a lead for just the second time since Game 1.
The run came when Ginobili was out. Blood dripped from his nose after taking an 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.
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 didn't get as much reliability from their stars.
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.
In San Antonio, he didn't even get off the bench after halftime. His spot went to Barea, whose pesky presence last season helped the Mavs take this series in five games.
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.
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.