The San Antonio Spurs did with more with less, just like they do every single season. This year, it was even less than usual — the Kawhi Leonard situation confused the Spurs, and then the league, and now looms over the entire franchise’s future. But there’s time to deal with Leonard’s future or lack thereof in San Antonio later, an entire summer worth of that.
For now, it’s worth appreciating what the Spurs did, after their season ended to the Golden State Warriors in a TK-TK loss in Tuesday’s Game 5. Even in this game, after trailing all game, San Antonio surged back to pull within two points in the final minute, only for Kevin Durant to ice the game with a dagger jumper and a pair of free throws. They had no business doing that, and yet they almost won the damn game.
Despite missing their best player on offense and defense, the Spurs finished the regular season with a league-average offense and the fourth-best defense. That defense came despite a roster relatively devoid of defensive stalwarts — a couple players like Danny Green and DeJounte Murray aside. Thanks to Gregg Popovich and the Spurs coaching staff’s stringent defensive rules instilled in all their players, San Antonio was a nightmare to score against with Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge sharing the frontcourt. That’s incredible.
In another matchup that wasn’t the No. 7 seed, San Antonio might have competed. With the way the Portland Trail Blazers flopped out in four games, then maybe that was a team that the Spurs could have competed against. Two games ultimately separated the third and eighth seeds in the Western Conference this year.
But the Spurs got the one team whose talent was simply too much to overcome … even without Stephen Curry suiting up. San Antonio did this all with a roster that paled in comparison to most others in the league — given Leonard’s long absence — and simply outsmarted and out-fundamentaled other teams.
San Antonio’s summer and future is filled with questions, but their season was marvelous despite everything.
Here’s the rest of our live blog.
End of the fourth quarter — Warriors 99, Spurs 91
End of the third quarter — Warriors 79, Spurs 65
Salutes to San Antonio for a hell of a season, and to Manu Ginobili for a hell of a career. (Come back for another one, dude!)
4:49, third quarter — Warriors 62, Spurs 51
Golden State led by as many as 15 points, and San Antonio is going to have a scoring problem the rest of this game. Their only real chance was to keep the Warriors on their hip throughout and hope to steal one with a stellar defensive effort. Once they fall behind by double digits, they simply can’t match the Warriors’ offensive output.
Halftime — Warriors 49, Spurs 38
Thompson ends the frame with a short jumper as time expires. Golden State is 24 minutes away from the second round.
1:17, second quarter — Warriors 47, Spurs 36
I don’t say this lightly but … this game is over.
Golden State is better. They’re missing Stephen Curry, but they still have way more talent all across their roster that the Spurs simply can’t match. They weren’t invested enough in Game 4 to close this in a sweep, but teams that are significantly better than their opponents win in five games, at most. That’s why it’s called a gentlemen’s sweep. And you can’t deny that in a series against the most respected franchise in the league, especially after the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Popovich’s wife, that the Warriors deserved to be gentlemen.
6:18, second quarter — Warriors 35, Spurs 26
Another Popovich classic from Messina, who has learned his lessons well. A Kevon Looney layup and Klay Thompson jumper sparked this.
7:50, second quarter — Warriors 31, Spurs 26
This feels like a game that San Antonio will stick around for at least three quarters, but they will never lead. They were up by one point for 28 seconds between a Ginobili three and Durant free throws, but that was it. I’m pretty sure they won’t go ahead the rest of the game, or at least, that’s the way it feels like this game is headed right now.
End of first quarter — Warriors 22, Spurs 20
This might be Manu Ginobili’s final game, but he’s going to make the most of it if so. He has buried a triple and picked up an assist in the final few minutes.
4:06, first quarter — Warriors 15, Spurs 13
San Antonio isn’t going quietly into that good night. Virtually everything is going against them, and this first quarter hang may not last long, but for now, they are definitely hanging.
10:25, first quarter — Warriors 9, Spurs 0
As FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring elaborated on in a clever story, Gregg Popovich is the king of the quick timeout. Nine unanswered points? Yeah, that’s enough to get a timeout called. It may be Ettore Messina filling in for Popovich, but he carries the same principles.
It’s early, but the Warriors at least look locked in.
BEFORE THE GAME
The San Antonio Spurs surprisingly avoided a sweep in a 103-90 Game 4 win over the Warriors. Despite Kevin Durant’s 34-point outing, LaMarcus Aldridge and Manu Ginobili were able to outplay the Finals favorite Warriors, who are still without Stephen Curry.
Ginobili, who may play his last game ever on Tuesday night, went off for 16 points on 10 shots, draining 3-of-5 threes. The 40-year-old has been clutch as always in the absence of Kawhi Leonard, and is a big part of what’s made these lopsided rosters play a semi-competitive series. Aldridge struggled in the early-going, but is finding his way. His 22 points on 19 shots were crucial in the Game 4 win.
The Warriors will look to cap this series and rest for their inevitable Round 2 matchup against the Pelicans, a team that’s riding a high of its own after sweeping the Blazers. Steve Kerr and co. will need time to game plan for Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo, who look as dangerous as ever.
HOW TO WATCH
Date: April 24
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland
Time: 10:30 p.m.
Stream: Watch TNT