In his pre-game talk, Pop was asked if he was at all concerned that his team might come out rusty. Pop responded, "I was watching the Miami game and they came out a little bit... what commentators would describe as rusty. It took them the whole quarter to get in the flow defensively and offensively. It scared me. I turned it off. I figure if they can be rusty, we sure as hell can be rusty." At the time, I thought it'd be a great way to start off my recap. After a comfortable victory, I could write about how while a little rust showed, it wasn't enough to keep the Warriors in the game.
And then the game happened.
When your team wins one of these kinds of games, it validates your dedication to the sport. When your team finds itself on the losing end, few things are worse. Somehow, the Spurs managed to emerge victorious in Game 1. It took an unbelievable comeback in regulation and two overtimes filled with clutch shots, but the Spurs won.
The Spurs began the game looking very rusty. They missed seven of their first eight shots and Golden State took advantage, jumping into the lead. Early on, I thought the Spurs were getting great looks at the basket; they were simply missing, but surely it'd even out eventually. I thought the Spurs didn't look sharp defensively, but they were still forcing the Warriors to take contested jumpers. That's the game plan, right? The Spurs force their opposition into taking low percentage shots. What I failed to recognize was the possibility that the Warriors just might play their best game possible.
In the first quarter, the Warriors shot 57% from the field while the Spurs only shot 39%. The Spurs were rusty and the Warriors, who didn't have much time off between their first and second round series, were playing with confidence. But, I still thought it'd even out.
Then, into the second quarter, it was more of the same. The Warriors finished the half shooting 55% from the field while the Spurs shot 38%, yet the Spurs only trailed by four, 49-53. The Warriors turned the ball over 10 times in the first half and the Spurs made eight more free throws than Golden State. At halftime, I couldn't help but feel optimistic about the Spurs' chances. The Spurs had played horribly, yet only trailed by a couple of buckets. Tim Duncan was 3 of 8, Tony Parker was 3 of 9 and Manu was 2 of 8, and the Spurs only trailed by four points. This game had to even out in the second half, If nothing else, there was certainly no way the Warriors could continue to convert their shots at such a blistering pace against the Spurs' vaunted defense.
And then the third quarter happened.
I've never seen anything like Stephen Curry's Game 1 third quarter. He was so good offensively, so unstoppable, that it destroyed the Spurs on the offensive end of the floor, too. Curry made 9 of his 12 shots, 4 of 6 from distance, in the third quarter for 22 points. He also had three assists in the quarter as the Warriors' field goal percentage increased from 55% at the half to 61% at the end of the third. He absolutely destroyed the Spurs' home-court advantage, as the stunned crowd didn't know what to do. More than that, one could sense that the Warriors truly believed this was their game to steal. The confidence was oozing from them and they could do no wrong.
The Spurs actually played a fairly good quarter, scoring 31 points in the third as compared to the Warriors' ridiculous 39. Curry just made unbelievable shot after even more unbelievable shot. At the end of the third, the Warriors led by 12, 92-80.
Unable to stop the Warriors' momentum, the Spurs began the fourth quarter poorly. Over the first four minutes, they only managed two points. With 8 minutes remaining, the Spurs found themselves down 16, 82-98. It was looking bleak, very bleak.
At this point fans started heading to the exits and I don't think I could blame them. It really felt hopeless. Curry's onslaught followed by the Spurs horrible start to the fourth just seemed like it was too much to overcome. Oh, and at this point Tim left the game and wandered into the locker room. Turns out that Duncan had the flu and was just too depleted to continue. In Manu's post game remarks, he spoke about Tim. "I realized [how bad Tim was feeling] during a timeout when his eyes were lost and he couldn't even raise his head. Pop was talking to him and he was just lost, staring at the floor. You could tell it wasn't him."
In the next four minutes of action, the Spurs didn't close the gap too much. They were still down 16, 88-104, with less than four minutes remaining. Before, I said it seemed bleak, that may have been generous. However, something important happened that could have indicated a shift. The second most important foul of the evening was called as Klay Thompson tried to force Parker baseline, brinking Thompson's total to six. He'd fouled out and Mark Jackson replaced him with our old friend Richard Jefferson.
In the next 60 seconds, Tony made two free throws, two layups and assisted a Kawhi layup. With 2:42 remaining, the Spurs managed to cut the deficit to eight. But still, at this point, a full comeback seemed improbable. Mark Jackson called a full timeout to calm his young team. Jarret Jack and Draymond Green both finally missed a shot and then came the most important foul of the game. Parker dribbled into the lane, spun and tried to pass back outside, but was picked off. The ball was passed ahead to RJ who looked to be streaking in for an uncontested dunk, but Gary Neal slipped in and caught Jefferson on the wrist of his shooting hand. Now it was free throws for the ex-Spur. He missed them both. This would be huge.
The Spurs defense started switching everything. With Tim unable to play due to the flu, Pop want with a small ball lineup that featured Diaw as the center, which allowed the Spurs to switch on all screens, and since Thompson had fouled out, Jackson's options were limited. The switching seemed to be confusing the Warriors. Kawhi then made a 3-pointer and Tony followed with a layup forcing the Warriors to call another timeout, and now it was a game. The Spurs were only down three points with 1:17 left on the clock.
In the final minute, Boris Diaw hit two clutch free throws to get the Spurs within a point, but Jarret Jack answered by hitting a hotly contested fade-away to push the lead back the three with 29 seconds remaining, and the Spurs took a timeout to set up a play. It was a fairly simple screen the screener play. Danny set a screen for Kawhi on the block. Diaw then set a screen for Danny. Both defenders followed Kawhi leaving Danny wide open for a game-tying 3-pointer. It didn't hit the rim, it was so pure.
The Warriors chose to not call timeout and brought the ball up the floor with the intention of taking the last shot. The ball was in Curry's hands as Kawhi pestered him 35 feet from the basket. He got by Kawhi but picked up his dribble at the free throw line and found himself trapped with Diaw to his front and Kawhi from behind. He threw up a prayer that wasn't answered and the game went into overtime.
It was an unbelievable comeback. Down 16 with four minutes left, everything had to go right and then some. The odds of overcoming a deficit that large, with that little time left are apparently 1 in 200. Everything needed to go right, and did. The Spurs managed to stop the Warriors for the first time that night and a lot of players stepped up and hit clutch shots. Danny "Big" Green's was the biggest, but he wouldn't have gotten that opportunity without the great plays from Tony, Kawhi, Manu and Diaw. It was a fantastic team effort by the Spurs to force overtime.
One minute into the first overtime the Spurs found themselves down five after a Jarret Jack contested two and a 3-pointer by Harrison Barnes. It was not the start that the Spurs' fans, those that were left, were hoping to witness. But, the resilient Spurs would answer once again.
Tony made a jumper and, because it was one of those nights, Boris connected on a corner three. Steph and Kawhi then exchanged clutch buckets and the Spurs were leading by two with 29 seconds remaining.
After the game, Mark Jackson said, "We played a championship team. We fought back. We made shots. Tonight they made shots and we made plays." The Warriors definitely didn't give up, as they seemed to in Game 6 against the Nuggets. Golden State did, as Mark said, make plays.
Jarret Jack tied the game with 20 seconds remaining on a layup. At this point, it's probably important to note that both teams were exhausted. Tony missed a few shots in the first overtime that he just about always makes. He simply didn't have any legs. Manu was also spent. On the other side, Curry seemed gassed too, and not having a fouled out Klay Thompson meant the entire offense fell on Steph and Jack. Both teams gave it their all.
In the final play of the first overtime, Manu shot a fade-away, but missed badly. It was well left. This game had to go into two overtimes. It was just meant to be.
In the second overtime, both teams took a while to get going. 90 seconds in, the Warriors scored the first points on a Harrison Barnes' 3-pointer. Tony quickly answered on a spectacular spinning layup. The teams traded baskets, but it was the Spurs who managed to build a lead, their first real one of the game, on another clutch Danny Green 3-pointer. The Spurs led by 5, 126-121, with 60 seconds left in the game.
Obviously, it would be foolish to assume the Warriors were going to give up at this point. Curry was fouled and made both free throws to close the gap to three points. With 50 seconds remaining, Manu received the ball from Tony five feet behind the 3-point line. After standing still for a bit, he decided to launch a three from there with 11 seconds still on the shot clock. He nearly broke twitter with that ill-advised shot.
Curry raced down the floor and made a scooping layup at the 32 second mark, perfectly setting his team up for a 2 for 1 to close the game. Tony took the ball to the rim and barely missed a reverse layup. There was contact and he hit the floor, giving the Warriors a fast break. Curry dished the ball to Kent Bazemore in transition for the easy layin to take the lead.
The Spurs called a timeout to advance to ball with 3.9 seconds remaining. After the Warriors committed the foul they had left to give, the Spurs had 3.4 seconds to work with. I'll let Manu talk you through the game-winner. "Were you the first option?" "No, I wasn't. I wasn't even an option. They told me just go screen and stay far from the play. The play was for Tony or Boris, and Golden State got confused and two went with Tony I started waving at Kawhi because I was wide open and he threw and I shot it because I didn't have another option. I had to shoot it. And it went in."
Pop had this to say about Manu's last 60 seconds of action, "I went from trading him on the spot to wanting to cook him breakfast tomorrow. That's the truth. And when I talk to him and say, 'Manu?' He'll say, 'This is what I do.' I stopped coaching him a long time ago." Golden State had one more possession with 1.2 seconds left, but Jack's desperation three was way off.
And with that, the Spurs took Game 1 in miraculous fashion. It seemed everything that could potentially go wrong did go wrong for the Silver and Black, yet they never quit. It's a true team. Every one of the Spurs' players stepped up and had a hand in their unbelievable comeback. Down 18 with 8, down 16 with 4. It didn't matter, the team never quit. Sure, some fans left the arena when it seemed hopeless, but if you take anything away from tonight, it's that you can't quit on a team that won't quit on themselves. The Spurs have the opportunity to make this a special year. I'd say they are doing a good job of it thus far.