Golden State Warriors 97, San Antonio Spurs 87: Historically bad shooting can’t get job done
San Antonio had a chance to put this series in the back seat, to situate the rearview mirror on the vaunted Oracle Arena as it left northern California with a high probability of leaving it there for good in the 2013 postseason.
But the Spurs slipped. And in doing so, they opened the box offices for Game 6 in Oakland.
And it didn’t look like it would end up in a 97-87 Warriors win in overtime. Not for the first three quarters. In a combination of bad Golden State shooting and good San Antonio defense, the Warriors couldn’t score in the first half. And on top of that, Manu Ginobili was looking like the old Manu for the first time all series.
Ginobili scored 14 of his 21 points in the first two quarters, matching Tim Duncan’s first-half output in a spectacular vintage effort. Manu came in to Game 4 shooting 32 percent from the floor (17 percent from three) in the series, but his performance prior to the break was exactly what a lethargic Spurs team needed. The flat, tired jumpers we’ve seen throughout the series had some pop in them, and Ginobili’s high-arching shots resembled more of the beauty his Game-1 winner possessed.
He looked comfortable.
The only problem was, it wasn’t the icing on the cake that was the anatomy of so many Manu playoff performances before it. He didn’t get to the line — was 0-for-2 in the game — and wreak havoc on a Golden State interior that was ravaged by foul trouble, and on top of that, one of the team’s constants struggled mightily. It was the complete antithesis of Game 3 for Tony Parker, as he labored his way to 17 points on 17 shots. And while Ginobili was doing his damage (the good kind), Parker couldn’t keep up.
It was unfortunate for the Spurs, because the Warriors were ready to give it away. Golden State scored 37 points on 30 percent shooting in the first half, turning the ball over 11 times in the process and just asking for San Antonio to walk out with a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. But the Spurs never took advantage.
San Antonio would only get colder, and as the game wore on, Golden State was the side hitting the big shots. The Spurs shot 35.5 percent throughout — including 25.9 percent from three and 56 percent from the line — and went 1-for-10 in overtime, forking over a chance to steal a second consecutive game on the road and virtually lock this thing up. When you let a team with those kind of shooters off the hook, you’re playing with fire.
The Warriors dominated the Spurs 13-3 in the extra frame, stealing their second win in the series and ending Sunday’s misery for what looked like a tired San Antonio team.
But the silver and black head back home with something they left Texas on Thursday without: home-court advantage.
Despite not taking advantage on the final leg of the current trip to the bay, San Antonio still has the upper hand. On paper, at least. The Spurs have shot just 38 percent from the field in the series, yet remain tied with two of the three potential remaining games on their home floor. Keeping those numbers in mind, you’ll take it.
In fact, today’s shooting performance will go down in the team’s history books. The Spurs haven’t shot worse than 36 percent from the floor, worse than 26 percent from the 3-point line and 56 percent or less from the free-throw line in a single game since a November tilt against the Seattle Supersonics …. in 1997.
It does not get much worse than that. But take your time to digest those stats, then realize the Spurs almost won a playoff game today. If they’d have been anywhere remotely closer to their averages, this one may not have ever been a question.
San Antonio is getting the things it wants, offensively. Shots just aren’t falling, and the separation isn’t there. And on this day, in particular, the Spurs seemed ‘stuck in mud’ from the tip after a quick turnaround (by playoff standards) from Game 3 to Game 4. And much of that started with Parker.
After injuring his calf late in the victory on Friday night, the All-Star point guard lacked the same pep in his step we saw less than 48 hours earlier. But he wasn’t alone. Outside of Ginobili’s early burst and the ever-consistent early Duncan performance, the rest of the team struggled to offer any contributions. And what this sport ultimately comes down to is hitting shots, something Gregg Popovich has buried in our brains repeatedly.
As the Big 3 age, rest becomes more and more important. Who knows why the Spurs couldn’t take the lid off the basket on Mother’s Day? But with an afternoon start that came 36 hours after they walked off the court late Friday night, this team had no legs. Make no mistake about it, the Warriors looked ragged, too. But whether it was younger legs or a boost from the home crowd’s decibel level, Golden State found the energy to close, whereas the Spurs left theirs somewhere in the wake of Game 3’s win.
San Antonio will have less than 48 hours on its own turf before it has to deal with the Warriors again at the AT&T Center on Tuesday night, and if fatigue is a problem, it must be dealt with because there are no breaks on the horizon. As players always say, this is the playoffs. And in the playoffs, you have to make shots.
Otherwise, vacation is a perfect remedy for the weary.