Between Games 3 and 4, the Spurs only had 36 hours to recover. In Game 4, as I'm sure you've heard, the Spurs shot miserably. It was their worst shooting performance since 1997. While they nevertheless managed to control most of the game, they seemed to run out of gas as the fourth quarter wore on. The Warriors kept the game close and once they pushed it into overtime, it was over for the Spurs. San Antonio only managed to score three points in the extra period, all of which came after the game had been decided.
Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw are likely still not in game shape, since injuries forced them into street clothes as the regular season came to a finish. Tony has a bruised calf and none of the Big 3 are used to playing the heavy minutes that they've been forced to endure. In my opinion, heavy minutes, nagging injuries and the 36 hour turnaround were simply too much for the Spurs to handle. The result was one of the worst shooting nights you will ever witness.
So, which team was going to show up Tuesday night at the AT&T Center? That's the question I pondered the entire day leading up to pivotal Game 5. Since the Mothers' Day game started so early, the Spurs had an extra 12 hours of recovery time. But would that be enough? I walked into the arena still perplexed and anxious. Eventually, the game started and we'd soon have our answer.
The Spurs came out hot in the first quarter, to my great relief. Tim Duncan began the game aggressively with six early points, finishing the quarter with 10. Where the basket had been closed in Game 4, it definitely opened up for the Spurs in Game 5, at least to start. Kawhi Leonard added seven points as he, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Cory Joseph and Matt Bonner each connected on a first quarter 3-pointer.
The Spurs jumped out to a nine point lead after one, but it seemed as if they should have been up by more. Harrison Barnes kept the Warriors close by scoring nine points and grabbing two rebounds in the opening quarter. In addition, Jarrett Jack scored seven points before the buzzer sounded. They seemingly were all extremely difficult, highly contested shots, but if you've been following this series, at this point it's to be expected. The Spurs scored 37 points on 72% shooting from the field, 60% from distance, as compared to the Warriors' respectable 28 points on 52% field goal and 50% 3-point shooting.
In the second quarter, someone hit the brakes on the Spurs' offense. As has been the case for most of this series when the Spurs have struggled, they were getting great looks, their shots just stopped falling. Wide open shots rimmed out and layups were blown. The raucous crowd quieted and one could feel a little bit of tension in the air. The Warriors won the second quarter 23-17, to cut the Spurs' lead to three at intermission.
It was a team effort that saw the Warriors get back into the game, and it was necessary as Golden States' Game 1 and 2 heroes shot just 4 of 17 in the half. Instead of relying on the Curry, Thompson dynamic duo, the Warriors used evenly distributed scoring to cut into the Spurs' lead. In the second quarter, the Spurs shot just 33% from the field and turned the ball over five times while the Warriors shot 43% and turned it over just once to get back into the game.
It was a very ugly quarter for the Silver and Black. There wasn't much positive to take away from the second quarter other than it seemed that Pop was managing minutes, finally. After the game, JA Adande asked Pop about how he utilized his bench in Game 5. Pop responded, "Well, that's what we've done for a long time. I want to make sure we have Tony, Tim and Manu down the stretch in games. So I have to make sure I manage it."
I don't know who Pop thought he was fooling, but it wasn't anyone in that room. We all witnessed Game 4's fourth quarter and overtime collapse that came about because of the heavy minutes Pop had allocated to his stars. We all watched the Spurs' legs slowly degenerate before our eyes, and it wasn't just in Game 4. Here are Tony, Tim and Manu's minutes, respectively, in Games 1 through 5: Game 1, 48, 34, 36; Game 2, 40, 37, 28; Game 3, 35, 38, 28; Game 4 OT, 41, 43, 37; Game 5, 34, 30, 25. To be fair, Pop pulled Tony and Manu with 3 minutes remaining, and later Duncan at about the 1:30 mark.
Even if you add those additional minutes to their Game 5 totals, Pop clearly managed his stars' minutes more carefully in Game 5 than he had in the previous four games. It proved to be a great strategy. The Spurs looked fresh throughout the game and the young Warriors ended up looking slow and tired by the fourth quarter. But I digress.
And so, the ominous third quarter loomed. What would Curry do this time? Against the Denver Nuggets, Curry owned the third. In Game 1 of this series, he demoralized the Spurs dropping his now legendary 22 points. However, since tweaking his ankle, his third quarter output has diminished.
In tonight's third quarter, the Spurs regained their shooting touch as the Warriors began to fade. Curry and Thompson continued to struggle from the field, making just one of four shots, combined. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green played an outstanding defensive game.
Assisting their defense was Pop's newly employed strategy of making Curry work on the offensive side of the floor. Whomever Curry was matched up with, Pop had running through a myriad of screens all game long. It didn't always end with a bucket scored on Curry, but it always ended with Curry running and that was good enough.
In Game 2, I thought Mark Jackson made it a priority to run Tony Parker ragged. I wrote about how Tony couldn't hide on the defensive end of the floor and that it was hindering the Spurs' offense. In Game 5, Pop wisely flipped the script. It was Curry's turn to chase the never-ending cutter and that strategy, in addition to the Spurs' outstanding defense and Steph's injured ankle, proved too much for Curry to overcome.
After the game, Mark Jackson commented on Curry's performance in Game 5. "He wasn't hurt. He didn't play well. Obviously, he wasn't 100%. It was a long night for us. Give the Spurs credit."
The Spurs won the third quarter 29-21, out-shooting the Warriors from the field 56% to 45%, and the Spurs only turned the ball over twice as compared to the Warriors' six. A visibly fresh Tony Parker led the Spurs' charge with nine points, two assists and zero turnovers in the quarter.
The Spurs entered the fourth quarter with a comfortable eleven point lead. The closest the Warriors managed to get in the fourth was eight points, with 6:28 remaining. From there, the Spurs went on a 12 to 2 run; Diaw made two freebies, Kawhi hit a three, Tony scored twice in a row and Manu closed with a three of his own to put the game out of reach, 102-84.
The Spurs will look to close this series out in Game 6 at Oracle Arena. The Silver and Black now have the momentum and control of the series. With Steph Curry limping to the finish line, one would expect this veteran Spurs squad to not allow the series to come back to San Antonio. We shall see.
-- At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Draymond Green pulled Tony Parker to the floor and held him down for a second. This made Tony Parker unhappy. Tony tends to play well when upset. Tony closed the fourth scoring seven points on 3 of 5 shooting to finish with 25 points and 10 assists. Before the game, Pop said Tony's calf was much better. He said in Game 4, Tony's bruised calf prevented him from jumping, exploding. If Tony can continue to get healthy and regain his MVP ways, the Spurs will be tough to beat.
-- Tim Duncan's game leading +/- of +27 was well deserved. In his 30 minutes of action, Duncan controlled the glass and rotated beautifully as he anchored the Spurs' defense. His 14 point, 11 rebound, 3 assist box score does not do him justice. The +27 is more indicative of his performance.
-- Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard played a great game on both ends of the floor. They shot a combined 13 of 18 from the field for 33 points, while holding Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to a combined 6 of 22 for 13 points. That was essentially the game.
-- Manu Ginobili was all over the place. He had 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and three turnovers. He shot just 3 of 9 from the field, but two of them were 3-pointers. His effort was definitely there, so it's difficult to complain. I think my only wish would be for him to pass on contested jumpers and try to get to the rim more often. He seems to be throwing up heat checks when he's clearly not hot. I think he's just a little too rushed out there. Hopefully, he finds a rhythm at some point. Regardless, a healthy Manu this deep into the playoffs is a rare commodity. We should be thankful.
Also, please follow me on Twitter. I tweet from games and tonight, after observing Matt Bonner attempt to defend Steph Curry, I tweeted:
Bonner defends like you're supposed to react to a bear. He makes himself as big as possible and waves his arms all over the place.— Fred (@DartFred) May 15, 2013