The 35-year-old guard, a missing piece for the Spurs throughout the NBA Finals, started for the first time in the regular season or postseason Sunday night and looked as if he should have been in the lineup all along. He had 24 points and 10 assists to help San Antonio defeat the Miami Heat 114-104 and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.
The point total was his highest this season, regular season or playoffs.
"I needed to make a couple of shots," he said. "I just had a better overall offensive game. I needed to feel like that."
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich's move to replace center Tiago Splitter with Ginobili paid off quickly. Ginobili had seven points and three assists in the first five minutes of the game and never cooled off.
The Spurs weren't pleased with the criticism Ginobili had been receiving.
"We're not a team or organization that points fingers in that respect, so we're confident in him," San Antonio forward Tim Duncan said. "We know he has it in him. We're hoping he can bring it for one more win."
Ginobili had help from his backcourt mates. Tony Parker had 26 points for San Antonio, and Danny Green scored 24 points while making six 3-pointers to break the NBA record for 3-pointers in a Finals series.
"Danny's been playing great," Parker said. "I can't believe he's still open. If you leave Danny wide open, he's going to shoot 3s."
Duncan added 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Kawhi Leonard scored 16 points.
The Spurs need just one win to claim their fifth NBA title since the start of the 1998-99 season. Game 6 is Tuesday in Miami, which would be the site of Game 7 on Thursday if necessary.
"You just go play Game 6," Popovich said. "There's no magic. It's basketball. The best team will win."
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each scored 25 points for Miami, with Wade contributing 10 assists and James adding eight rebounds. Ray Allen came off the bench to score 21 points, 15 of them in the fourth quarter.
"The small things we need to do to win games, we didn't do them this night," Allen said.
Miami opened the second half with a 7-0 run that included a 3-pointer by James, pulling the Heat within two. San Antonio quickly responded, and a 3-pointer by Green increased the Spurs' lead to 66-59. The basket gave him the Finals record with his 23rd 3-pointer in the series, and he ended the night with 25. Allen set the previous mark with the Boston Celtics in 2008.
Green then came up with a huge defensive play, stuffing a driving James to thwart a Miami fast break. San Antonio then pushed it down the floor, and Parker's floater on the other end bumped San Antonio's lead back up to 73-67 with six minutes left in the third quarter.
Miami went on another run, cutting San Antonio's lead to one, but the Spurs responded with a 12-1 run to take an 87-75 lead into the fourth quarter. San Antonio scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter, and the Spurs weren't threatened from there.
San Antonio's offense sizzled in the first half. The Spurs hit 61.8 percent from the field and made five of 11 3-point attempts to take a 61-52 lead at the break.
Green continued his hot shooting from beyond the arc, knocking down three first-half 3-pointers, the last coming at 7:30 of the second quarter and giving San Antonio a 17-point lead.
Miami came back to cut the deficit to 52-47 on two free throws by James with two minutes left.
Parker scored the final four points of the half, the last a layup at the buzzer to push the lead back up to nine.
Green and Duncan each had 13 first-half points to lead the Spurs. San Antonio's Big Three -- Ginobili, Parker and Duncan -- combined for 35 points in the first half.
James topped the Heat with 16 first-half points, but he struggled in the second half, a big part of why the Heat face elimination heading into Game 6.
The league MVP hit eight of 22 shots, and the Heat made 43 percent overall. San Antonio wound up hitting 60 percent of its shots.
"We can't worry about a Game 7," James said. "We have a Game 6. It is what it is. We have a Game 6 on our home floor. I have to come up big for sure in Game 6. I believe we all have to play at a high level to keep this series going.