OAKLAND, Calif. – The San Antonio Spurs suddenly returned to form. The Golden State Warriors went cold, and Stephen Curry's sprained left ankle is once again a serious concern.
So much about this Western Conference semifinal series has turned, too.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili reminded the NBA why nobody should ever count them out, leading the Spurs past the Warriors 102-92 Friday night to take a 2-1 lead.
Parker scored 25 of his 32 points in a sizzling first half, Duncan added 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Ginobili had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists to ease coach Gregg Popovich's concerns.
Game 4 in the best-of-seven series is Sunday in Oakland.
"We talked about it, even after winning Game 2, this is going to be a heavyweight championship fight," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "This is a different animal that we're going against. They have four future Hall of Famers. They're not going to lie down."
San Antonio outshot Golden State 50.6 to 39.3 percent and curbed Curry and Klay Thompson for the first time in the series.
Thompson scored 17 points on 7-of-20 shooting, while Curry had 16 points while going 5 of 17 from the floor. He also sprained his left ankle again in the final minutes. Curry was icing his ankle in the locker room and limped out without speaking to reporters. His status was unclear.
"It wasn't our offense. It was our defense. I personally have to be more physical with Tony Parker," Thompson said.
Kawhi Leonard finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, and Parker added five assists and five boards to help the Spurs wrestle back home-court advantage from the Warriors after withstanding a brief fourth-quarter rally.
After leading for 95 of 106 minutes in the first two games, the Warriors nearly pulled off their own comeback. They scored the first nine of the fourth in fewer than 2 minutes, capping the run by slicing San Antonio's lead to 79-78 when Andrew Bogut blocked Duncan's layup, and Draymond Green made a jumper while drawing a foul on Duncan on the other end.
Parker put San Antonio back ahead by seven with a 3-pointer during another brief burst before leaving briefly after getting kicked in the left shin. Trainers wrapped his leg while he was on the bench and he showed no signs of slowing down when he returned, though he limped around the hallways after the game.
Parker said he will receive treatment and will play in Game 4.
With Parker on the bench, the Spurs never relented. Duncan converted a three-point play and Leonard added a layup to cap an 11-1 run that gave San Antonio a 90-79 lead with 5:39 to play.
"I thought our team was very focused," Parker said. "By far our best game in the series. The first two games we didn't play well enough. Got lucky in the first one. The second one they kick our butt."
The Warriors only hope they didn't lose more than just a game.
Most of Golden State's yellow-shirt wearing crowd of 19,596 fell silent after Curry came off a curl and his left ankle — which he sprained in Game 2 in the first round against Denver but seemed to finally be back to full strength — landed awkwardly when he planted his feet to receive the ball. Curry limped around but stayed in the game, with nervous chants of "Curry! Curry!" breaking out.
The Warriors moved within five points on Harrison Barnes' pull-up jumper with 2:48 left, but never got closer. After starting 3-0 at home in the playoffs, Golden State fell short again in one of the Bay Area's biggest basketball games in decades.
The Warriors have not held a series lead beyond the first round since the 1975-76 season, when they went up 2-1 and 3-2 against Phoenix in the conference finals and lost. That also was last time the Warriors made the conference finals, though there were only three rounds in the playoffs at that time.
"It's real frustrating, but it's a short turnaround," said Bogut, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds but was saddled with foul trouble most of the second half. "The series definitely isn't over. The short turnaround suits a younger team like us. Obviously the work we did in San Antonio is kind of down the drain, but we can salvage that next game."
San Antonio had by far its best start behind its All-Star point guard.
Parker scored 13 points in the first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting, including a desperation bank shot after getting fouled by Green that gave the Spurs a 32-23 lead. San Antonio went ahead by 11 points in the second quarter. Its largest lead in the series had been five points — all the way back in the second overtime of its Game 1 comeback win.
All-Star forward David Lee sparked Golden State with his first appearance in the series after tearing his right hip flexor in the first-round opener against Denver and originally deemed out for the season. Lee, held scoreless in a brief appearance in the Game 6 clincher over the Nuggets, instantly put back an offensive rebound while getting fouled by Tiago Splitter to start a three-point play that sent fans into a frenzy.
Lee finished with five points and two rebounds in three minutes.
The Warriors erased a nine-point halftime deficit a little more than midway through the third quarter when Curry's quick 3-pointer evened the score 65-all. Bogut exited with 6:34 remaining in the period after picking up his fourth foul, and the Spurs surged ahead by 11 behind a brief burst from Ginobili with Golden State's big man buried on the bench.
"They had Curry in the first game. They had Klay in the second one," Ginobili said. "It was time for one of us to get hot."
NOTES: Duncan received a technical foul for shoving Bogut while running back on defense in the first quarter. The whistle came after Bogut had just dunked and dangled his legs around Duncan's shoulders trying to regain his balance. ... San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York, general manager Trent Baalke, QB Colin Kaepernick and running back Frank Gore were sprinkled throughout the crowd along with other team executives. ... Rick Barry, the MVP of the 1975 NBA Finals won by the Warriors, and comedian Dave Chappelle also were shown on the videoboard wearing yellow shirts.