San Antonio Spurs 129, Golden State Warriors 127: What. The. Hell.

by

AT&T CENTER — Over the course of each season, I watch a lot of basketball games. Covering the Spurs, I go to a lot of basketball games. On a normal night, it’s exactly what you’d expect. There are a lot of runs, one team exploits the other’s weaknesses and the game ends about how you’d think.

It’s fun, but the season can drag on. You have to suffer through January home games on Friday or Saturday nights against teams like the Kings (no offense, Cowbell Kingdom friends). A lot of those nights can feel the same and it’s hard to get out of the rut. I’ve told myself often that I don’t want to get jaded as I’m in this game longer and longer; this was my third full season covering the Spurs.

But every now and then something special comes along. Not just a game with a high scorer and play-by-play statistics, a winner and a loser. Eventually, it’s not a game that you cover, but an experience. That was the Spurs’ 129-127 double overtime Game 1 win over the Golden State Warriors was on Monday night. It was a full-blown experience.

I watched as Stephen Curry spent an entire quater playing Pop-A-Shot against the Spurs defense, scoring 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the third period. Every shot seemed to scrape the underside of the AT&T Center jumbotron before settling comfortably in the net. What made watching Curry shoot feel like a religious experience wasn’t that he was making them, it was that 18,581 fans, three officials and nine other players on the floor could do nothing to stop him. Curry might as well have been on the floor by himself.

Curry’s fireworks display helped the Warriors push their lead, which they held steady throughout most of the game, to as many as 18 points in the third quarter. The show that Stephen Curry put on for most of the second half would’ve been enough to make this game stand out from the rest. It’s not often you get to see a shooting savant completely in his element.

Jarrett Jack hit two free throws with 4:31 left in the game and the fans streamed out of the AT&T Center. Could you blame them? Not only could the Spurs not force a missed shot from Golden State, San Antonio couldn’t buy a bucket on their own end, shooting 37 percent from the floor to that point.

Eventually Tony Parker knocked down a couple free throws, then scored a pair of layups. Suddenly the lead was down to 10. The volume in the arena started to amplify just a bit. Kawhi Leonard scored a layup in transition and the lead was down to eight. A couple possessions later Leonard knocked down a 3-pointer and the lead was five. This was a ballgame.

Over the last 4:31 of the fourth quarter, the Spurs went 6-for-7 from the field and scored 18 points. Golden State went 1-for-9 from the floor and scored just two points. In that stretch, former Spur Richard Jefferson bricked two free throws that would’ve given the Warriors a seven-point lead with under two minutes remaining, just another moment that helped push this game to what will become legendary status.

In one of the more remarkable comebacks you’ll ever see, the Spurs erased a 16-point deficit in just four-and-a-half minutes and forced overtime. People who had left the AT&T Center a few minutes earlier to get a jump on traffic started reappearing. I spent the next I-don’t-know-how-many-minutes watching the Spurs fight back from every deficit, feeding off of each other and the suddenly explosive crowd.

The Spurs had a five point lead in double overtime, that quickly disappeared and turned into a one point deficit thanks in part to an ill-advised (and that’s putting it kindly) 3-point attempt from Manu Ginobili with 45 second left, only to have Ginobili sink the game-winning 3 with less than two seconds left.

Through it all nothing was believable, except that it all made sense. This was a sporting event where every possible scenario was on the table and it felt like most of them made an appearance. It was an incredible three hours and change that on paper only shows that the Spurs have a 1-0 series lead in the Western Conference Semifinals. But all those who were there (and didn’t leave early) and everyone who watched it on TV witnessed something special.

When someone asks you why you watch sports, this game is one you’ll point to. It’s one of the first ones you’ll bring up and the last one you’ll erase from your DVR. This one will be a night I never forget.


Play-by-play data courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

  • Joseph

    I never thought this would be how Tim Duncan’s Flu Game would end!

  • Televator Keith

    TW Cable was under repair in our ‘hood and the radio wasn’t good enough for me so we drove across town to watch the 2nd half + OT with the parents. Our friends had tickets and left early, only to have to listen to our remarkable comeback on the radio. HA!!! With Tim and Tiago hopefully back to 80% or better, the next game won’t be nearly as memorable. No way we’ll shoot as bad as the first 3 quarters now that the rust is gone. I worry that GSW will figure out that Curry might shoot better at the end of games if he gets a little bit of rest instead of playing every single freaking minute. Just a fantastic game. Thanks for denying me an HD recording, Time Warner.

  • BigBadBruce

    This game gives me great confidence for the rest of the series. Duncan sick, poor shooting, Tiago injured, Curry lighting it up, 16 point lead with 4 minutes to go, and we still win. I think we took their best shot last night and survived, barely.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1183770625 Jon Richey

    I was at the game last night and it was my birthday and I got the best basketball game I have ever witnessed in person for a gift. One thing I got to say….all those Spurs “fans” I saw leaving early…..you deserve not seeing the end to one of the best playoff games ever. YOU DESERVE IT!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1183770625 Jon Richey

    I just got home (to Austin) a few minutes ago.

  • Nima K.

    Once a Spur, always a Spur. Thanks RJ for helping us out there. Couldn’t have done it without your help :-)

  • SpurredOn

    This reminded of gm1 vs Suns in 2008, right down to the end of regulation 3pt make by jersey #4 on the Spurs (Finley then, Green now), surviving a potential winning shot at the end of regulation, and a Manu game winner in 2OT. Wow. These guys have provided us with some memories.

  • neverthehero

    Curious if Golden State will find a team to trade for his expiring contract (not as valuable as they used to be it seems).

  • NYC

    I think RJ is secretly still on our payroll. If only we had kept the receipt, we might still have been able to return Stephen Jackson, or at least exchange for store credit.

  • NYC

    “Our friends had tickets and left early…” Those are not your friends. You need new ones.

  • NYC

    What kind of fair weather, Lakers fans were these who left early???

    Andrew says, “Could you blame them?” You damn well better believe I can, Andrew! I want each of those who left AT&T early to be rounded up and court martialed. We do not tolerate such acts of treason in the Texas Republic.

  • NYC

    And I bet every second of that drive home was blissful.

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  • Andrew G

    The second Richard Jefferson came in the game, I wanted either team to immediately go on a 10-0 run. If Jarret Jack is a Spurs killer, then RJ is a Spurs reviver. I got my wish, and was chanting RJ’s name the entire time.

    I can only hope Jackson plays Curry for entire games again, he was completely gassed by the fourth quarter and Kawhi was finally able to contain. After watching bricks all night from our guys, that run in the fourth was a sight for sore eyes.

    Those overtimes… I’M IN A GLASS CASE OF EMOTION!! Being at a bar at midnight at the end of that game was great, drunkards yelling and barking at Manu after he threw up the brick, Warrior fans licking their lips about the upset… only to have Manu rip everyone’s heart out with that last shot. After the brick, I knew he was going to make up for it, El Contusion wouldn’t have it any other way. Never lose faith, he’s Manu Ginobili.

    You live by Manu, you die by Manu.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Another for the Spurs vault. I’m buying the box DVD when it’s all over said and done and the Core 3 are out the door. OH MY!

  • junierizzle

    What a crazy game. I felt drained after and I only watched the thing. I do blame the fans for leaving, if you’re going to be there and enjoy a 16. point lead then you should be there to endure a 16 point deficit. As long as there is time left anything can happen. It ain’t over til its over. Ginobili!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1183770625 Jon Richey

    It was.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1183770625 Jon Richey

    I screamed at them that they were fair-weather ^%#^%$ fans!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1183770625 Jon Richey

    Damn straight

  • assistman

    I have always said that RJ is my least favorite Spur of all time, but now I have such good feelings when I think of him. Thanks RJ, you’ve truly redeemed yourself!

  • td4life

    He’s been phoning it in since 2005, no way he’s traded unless he’s packaged with David Lee or Klay Thompson or something to that effect.

  • http://twitter.com/cdiasmd J. Chris Dias

    That game exposed GS’s weak bench. Pop figured out a strategy that works against Curry (Leonard) and all with Duncan and Splitter ailing. No way the Warriors recover. Spurs in 5.

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