The Spurs entered game 3 as 9 1⁄2 point underdogs, which is the largest spread the Spurs have seen as underdogs at home in the Gregg Popovich era. And it was for good reason. Kawhi Leonard was ruled out a few hours before tip-off making it official that San Antonio would be wildly overmatched against Golden State in the game, even with the Warriors missing injured heel, Zaza Pachulia, who was hurt in game 2 in a small bit of karmic justice.
But losing Zaza for the Warriors is nothing like losing Kawhi for the Spurs. Kawhi led the Spurs in minutes, scoring, rebounding, assists and steals and was their best defender by a fair margin in the playoffs while Zaza, well, he doesn’t do any of that for Golden State. The Dubs got what they needed from Zaza as he basically earned every penny of his salary in one play in game 1.
So it’s not a surprise that the Spurs lost game 3 by 12 points while this guy watched from the bench.
Game 1 really reminded me that I was a fan of the team. Game 4 against the Grizz did that to some degree, but I was seriously emotionally invested in game 1. For me, for the first time this season, it hurt to watch the Spurs lose that game. And as the series continues it’s really hard to not just say, “it’s not fair.”
But it isn’t fair. And life’s not fair and injuries play a part of every championship run. After losing Tony Parker for the playoffs and then Kawhi, it was almost comedic that the Spurs lost David Lee, who showed some nice signs of life in the game, after two minutes of playing time in this one. For fans of the NBA, and Spurs fans in particular, the injury to Kawhi just isn’t fair. It’s taken any sort of drama out of the CONFERENCE FINALS. And now Boston has lost Isaiah Thomas for the postseason which all but insures that the Cavs will waltz into the Finals without a loss.
So what we have left as fans of the NBA are the two most boring Conference Finals series in recent memory.
I know a lot of Spurs fans want to say the Spurs would be up 2-1 if Kawhi was available and while I’m not so sure of that, I do know we’d have a series on our hands. There’s zero doubt in my mind that the Spurs would have won game 1. Beyond that, I dunno, but I know that with Kawhi playing there would be drama and pressure leading up to game 4 instead of this series being as good as over.
And with the Spurs unable to pull out a shocking win in game 3 it seems a huge stretch to imagine that Pop will elect to play Kawhi in game 4. It’s not worth the risk of a long-term injury. The franchise will look to the future with their franchise guy and call this season a wrap.
In a game that will be quickly be lost to history at least basketball fans, and the Spurs faithful, got to see Manu Ginobili put on a show at age 39. The Manu was magnificent in his 18 minutes, scoring a team-high 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting. He became just the second player in NBA history to score at least 20 points in a Conference Finals game at age 39+, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. h/t Jordan Howenstine.
I sure hope this isn’t Gino’s final season, dude’s tank clearly isn’t empty yet. Just a year after Big Tim hung ‘em up, Monday’s game could be easily be Manu’s last and while it doesn’t seem like Manu will have much left for game 4, he has as big a heart as anyone who’s played the game and I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s Manuficent once again. If there’s one thing I’m looking forward to in game 4, it’s watching Gino.
The Spurs lost but this Ginobili nutmeg was worth the price of admission. It won’t fix Kawhi, but hey, it’s a smile. And smiles are good.
I take no solace in the fact that the Spurs bounced back after an embarrassing loss in game 2, that they showed heart and gave the Warriors a run early in the game. It was such an unfair fight watching Jonathon Simmons, Kyle Anderson, Dejounte Murray, Davis Bertans and Pau Gasol play against Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry and Draymond Green. Were the Spurs competitive? Sure. Did they play with heart? Sure, but the what-ifs weigh so heavily it’s not much of a consolation - at least for me.
And to make matters worse, the excellent play of Jonathon Simmons has made him virtually unsignable by the Spurs. Some team, probably a weak Eastern Conference team, I’m looking at you Knicks and Nets, is going to throw an offer sheet worth way more than what Jonathon Simmons should ever turn down. Good for Simmons, his story is certainly a great one, and he deserves whatever he gets.
Hearing Mike Brown give his team credit for the win and then listening to Steph Curry say that the Warriors have “answered a lot of challenges throughout the course of the playoffs” just about had me lose it. What nonsense. Be real. We all know what happened. I’m still salty about how this series went. But it is what it is.
This season is lost and next season doesn’t look great, at least in terms of a championship for the Spurs — they’ll probably win 55 games, that’s how the Spurs do. But with no cap-space to work with this offseason, it’s hard to imagine the Spurs really competing for a ring next year. To end on a bright note, an in-his-prime Kawhi Leonard and a coming-into-his-own Murray will be more than an intriguing duo in the summer of 2018.
I guess that’s to say that after 20 seasons of incredibly competitive play from the Spurs, this isn’t it. The team is set up to compete for another 10 years with Kawhi entering his prime. It just wasn’t their year this time.
- Just one tonight. Kevin Durant dropped 19 points on 5-of-6 from the floor in the third quarter. Dude’s amazing. But it sure would have been fun to watch Kawhi on the other side.
The Spurs will stay home and try to fend off a sweep when they host game 4 on Monday the 22nd. You can catch the game on ESPN at 8 p.m. Spurs time.