Make no mistake about it – this series was lost when one large man’s foot slid questionably underneath another large man’s foot, and even then the Spurs were going to have to be perfect to pull off the upset. The Warriors are a basketball doom machine with four All-Stars; teams don’t lose their only superstar player and hope to hang with them.
That said, the Spurs came out on Saturday night and gave as spirited a performance as one could have hoped. They matched the Warriors on effort, but simply didn’t have the horses to play on the level of the league’s best team.
"Competitiveness-wise,” said Gregg Popovich after the game, “I couldn't ask for anything more.”
Execution-wise, Pop was probably less impressed. The Spurs turned the ball over 15 times and went cold from three-point range, making only five of their 21 attempts. When those shots started falling for Kevin Durant and the Warriors, a tight game became not-so-close very quickly.
Durant scored 17 of his 33 points in the third quarter, putting on the type of show that made San Antonio miss Kawhi Leonard, both for his ability to defend Durant and answer on the other end.
With Leonard gone, it was none other than the ageless Manu Ginobili who led the Spurs, scoring 21 points off the bench on 7-of-9 shooting. No one knows if this is indeed the end of the line for the Argentinian great, but he’s certainly added to his brilliant legacy in these playoffs:
Two players in NBA Playoff history age 39+ with 20-or-more points in a Conference Finals game:— Jordan Howenstine (@AirlessJordan) May 21, 2017
MANU GINOBILI (tonight)
Big man David Lee was another casualty of the Spurs’ terrible playoff luck, sustaining a knee injury in the first quarter. He would score and draw the foul on a layup, but was in no condition to take the free throw and would not return. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if he joined Leonard and Tony Parker on the team’s injury report for Game 4.
Playing in an elimination game without three key players would, sadly, be a fitting end to a hapless postseason. It would also be apt conditions for one last stand. We’ll see which it’ll be when Game 4 tips off on Monday at 8pm.
“The only thing we can do is go out and fight,” Manu said last night.
And that’s all Spurs fans can ask of them, too.