After a hard fought, 94-82 victory, the Spurs have advanced to the Western Conference finals by beating the Warriors 4-2 in the semifinals. The last game, like the series, wasn't particularly pretty but the throwback Spurs got it done with defense and will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the West finals.
In my eyes the key to winning the game and therefore the series was to control the start. If the Warriors managed to get a double-digit lead in the first half and the crowd got into it, the confidence of the Warrior shooters soar and Pop would likely pull the plug early. So when the Spurs started strong I found myself mumbling "good, good" to myself to the bewilderment of a buddy of mine that was watching the game with me.
The Spurs weren't playing particularly well but neither were the Warriors. Barnes and Curry kept them in it early and Lee pitched in off the bench. But the explosive Dubs offense that had built big leads in earlier games was nowhere to be found, mostly because of how well the Spurs defended the three point line. On offense the Spurs did what the Spurs do: they moved the ball and tried to establish Duncan early on.
When the second quarter started and Neal and Splitter, who up until that point had underwhelmed against the Dubs, made some buckets, it was easy to expect the Spurs to build a nice lead they could manage en route to an easy win. But Parker's shooting was completely off in the first half while Curry refused to let the Warriors fade. His 11 second quarter points were enough to offset the contributions of the Spurs' role players. Fortunately the Spurs did a great job of capitalizing on their free throw advantage after struggling the whole series at the line. Warriors fans had a scare when the ultra-efficient Harrison Barnes had to take a few minutes from destroying smaller guys in the post to have stitches on his forehead after a mid air collision with Diaw that tumbling to the hardwood head first. He'd later return to the game, but going into the break the Spurs led by seven, 47-40.
The beginning of the third quarter was the time to strike and build a big enough lead to force the Warriors to quit, but like it was for long stretches of the series, both teams had a hard time scoring. Parker was still ice cold and would go on to finish the first three quarters 1-11 from the field. The Spurs kept working and at one point built a 13 point lead. But Landry and Jack willed the Dubs back in it. Neither team could get more than 19 points from their anemic offense in the quarter, so going into the final twelve minutes of the game (and as it turned out, the last minutes of the series) the Spurs still led by seven in a low scoring affair, 66-59.
With ten minutes to go on the fourth, the Warriors cut the lead to three with a Thompson three pointer and the momentum seemed to be swinging. But Splitter found Ginobili on a backdoor cut for an easy two when the team needed a bucket the most. Lee futilely tried to take over but kept firing blanks, and the Spurs started hitting jumpers as if they were the game one Warriors, while getting lucky bounces on their own rim. Nothing was easy in this series, so of course the Warriors cut the deficit to two once again with 4:52 to go. But Parker's shot picked the perfect moment to wake up, and with a three pointer from the right corner built a five point cushion. With Ginobili dishing the ball and Parker and Leonard hitting shots, it was evident the Spurs were going to prevail, and after both coaches emptied their benches in the final minute, they did.
The Warriors were finally defeated and it's time for a rematch of that painful first round exit the Spurs suffered at the hands of the Grizzlies two years ago.
- The Spurs had five players in double digits and 27 assists on 33 made field goals. That's Spurs basketball. Manu Ginobili led by example on this one, finishing with only five points but 11 assists. I still think Manu needs to hit more shots because the Spurs need another consistent scorer, but when he has games like this one, he more than makes up for it.
- Tony Parker redeemed himself after a terrible three quarters with a couple big buckets in the fourth. Fortunately, he stepped up just when Tim Duncan was slowing down but I have to admit I was losing my patience with Tony in the third, as he looked totally lost out there.
- Timmy was great in the first half but looked a bit tired in the second half, and after throwing a really bad pass straight out of bounds, Pop sat him down for the duration. It was great then that Tiago Splitter chose this game to have arguably his best performance in the 2013 playoffs. Our Brazilian did a great job of rolling to the basket and finishing. All of the Spurs' bigs did well in game six, really. Bonner was solid in limutes and Diaw had the most Diaw game ever, finishing with six rebounds, four assists and zero points.
- Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green were close to the best versions of themselves. Green was selective with his shots but canned three of five three pointers and Leonard was a beast on the boards and finished strong whenever possible. He had some troubles leading the break but since the Spurs won, all is forgiven.
- I kept saying "don't do that" after pretty much every Neal shot only to see him knock them down. Gary could be valuable against the Grizzlies, so I'm glad he found his shot, but he is probably the player that causes me to change my mind about his worth more than any other Spur. Diaw is infuriating at times but I know he is a very competent and talented big. When Neal is missing, I can't think of any redeeming qualities about him as a player. And then he starts hitting and I begin fantasizing about him nailing jumpers over the extended arms of a Grizzlies defender. Please, Gary, keep making shots because I prefer to like you.
- This will only make sense to other South American readers, but man that broadcast sucked. They had this guy that had the gall to call himself Manu even though all of us know the FSM had only one son and the play by play guy was even worse.
- What can you say about Cory Joseph? He's playing far beyond his years. He's not making horrible gaffes on defense, and there are times when he looks Parker-esque on offense. Well, done CoJo. You're my favorite rabid St. Bernard. (Different spelling? Ah well!)
The Warriors were a great foe but they are now behind us. It's time to focus on the Grizzlies, who will visit San Antonio for Game 1 on Sunday, which gives the Spurs two days off before playing again. There will be time to analyze how the teams match up and who has the upper hand in which area. We'll have ample coverage of the series in the upcoming days. For now all I will say is I want revenge for 2010/11.
For the opponent's perspective visit Golden State Of Mind, and as always, be nice.