SAN ANTONIO -- It's no coincidence that when San Antonio needs a big basket to win games, the ball seems to end up in the hands of the ageless Manu Ginobili.
Winning games is Ginobili's business -- he even told Spurs coach Gregg Popovich so when the venerable Argentinean came into the NBA 16 years ago.
"Manu told me a lot of years ago, 'this is what I do,'" Popovich said after the 40-year-old Ginobili canned a 26-foot 3-pointer with 5 seconds to play to lift San Antonio to a 105-102 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday in a game between two of the NBA's heavyweights at AT&T Center.
"He's amazing -- he loves those moments," Popovich continued. "He's come through an awful lot and he did it again tonight. At 40."
Friday's game was tied at 102 after a basket by the Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge with 1:32 to play. Two Kyrie Irving misses on 3-pointers, an Aldridge turnover and a miss from beyond the arc by San Antonio's Rudy Gay that Ginobili gobbled up on the baseline with 25.8 seconds to play set the stage for Ginobili to drill his game-winner.
"It was just a shot that went in," Ginobili said after the game. "It was the same as the other shots. I just gave the ball a little more air and went in -- I got a little bit lucky because it wasn't my usual shot.
"He's one of the best players at the end of quarters I've ever seen," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Ginobili.
After two timeouts, Irving had a good look for the tying basket from the baseline, but his trey went halfway down and out and was corralled by the Spurs as the final buzzer sounded.
"I thought the shot was cash money," Irving said of his final shot. "I thought it was going to hit the bottom of the net. I'll be replaying it for about 33 more minutes and then I'll be over it."
Aldridge scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Spurs (18-8), while Pau Gasol hit for 14 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio. Gay added 15 points, and Tony Parker and Ginobili tallied 11 each for the Spurs, who have won three straight and seven of their past eight games.
Said Ginobili: "It was a great win today -- we just played and won against the best team in the league with the best defense in the league so we are pleased."
Irving led the Celtics with 36 points, while Jason Tatum added 20 points, Jaylen Brown scored 15, and Terry Rozier racked up 13 points for the Celtics (22-5), who had a four-game winning streak snapped.
Irving became the first player to top the 30-point plateau against the Spurs this season.
"You understand that this was going to become a possession by possession game," Irving said. "It could have gone either way but they got to some of the 50-50 balls late in the game. A turnover here, a turnover there kind of dictated who was going to win."
The Celtics took advantage of San Antonio's cold-shooting start to score the game's first 11 points and 14 of its first 16 while building a 14-2 lead. Aldridge scored 12 of the Spurs' first 16 points to keep them in the game, but Irving had 17 points in the initial eight minutes of the game to help stake Boston to 31-26 advantage at the end of the opening quarter.
All of the Celtics' early-game success was erased in the second quarter as San Antonio roared back and took its first lead of the game, at 56-55, on Ginobili's 3 at the buzzer to end the first half.
Brown's 10 points in the third quarter pushed the Celtics from a six-point deficit to an 82-77 lead at the end of the period. The Spurs swept back into the lead via baskets by Gay and Gasol but Irving scored five straight points to push Boston to within 90-89 with 6:30 to play and set the table for a tense ending.
NOTES: San Antonio G Danny Green now has 500 steals and 401 blocks in his career and is one of only three players (along with LeBron James and Kevin Durant) with 500 steals, 400 blocks and 800 3-pointers since Green entered the NBA in 2009. Green didn't play in the second half because of tightness in his left groin after landing awkwardly during the second quarter. ... G Jayson Tatum is the first Celtics rookie to score 15-plus points in five consecutive games since Paul Pierce did so in April 1999. ... Boston's 108-94 win against the Spurs on Oct. 30 at TD Garden was the Celtics' first victory versus San Antonio since 2011.