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Spurs ramp up defense to beat Warriors, advance to Western Conference Finals

May 17, 2013, 2:12 AM EDT

Kawhi Leonard

The Warriors had a great run, but their magic ran out. In a hard fought, defense driven effort the Spurs defeated the Warriors 94-82 to advance to their 2nd consecutive Western Conference Finals.

Golden State battled all night, trying to stave off elimination but simply didn’t have enough.

Stephen Curry scored 22 points, but never found the range on his jumper while going 10-25 from the floor. Jarrett Jack tried his best to keep the Warriors in it by hitting half his 12 shots to score 15 points, but with off shooting nights from Klay Thompson (4-12, 10 points) and an awful fall that kept Harrison Barnes from finishing the game (while limiting him to 4-10 from the field), even the home crowd trying to will them to a win wasn’t enough to get them over the top.

Credit the Spurs for the Warriors’ inefficient output. As they’ve done over the past several games, San Antonio clamped down defensively and kept Golden State from ever finding a rhythm offensively. The Spurs hedged high in the pick and roll and funneled shooters into mid-range shots and flips at the rim, contesting nearly every look along the way. And while some of those attempts found the bottom of the net, those aren’t the types of shots the Warriors want to take nor are they the kind that can sustain a high powered attack to match what the Spurs were able to produce.

So the Warriors struggled all night to keep pace, falling behind by double digits multiple times throughout the contest. If not for some timely shot making, some inspired defense of their own, and a crowd that would not let them surrender, this game could have gotten out of hand.

So credit the Warriors too. They displayed a lot of heart and showed off the type of young talent that should keep them competitive for years to come. The future looks bright in the Bay Area.

But now is the Spurs’ time. The veteran group showed a combination of physical and mental toughness, displaying a discipline and adherence to their game plan that kept them a step ahead all night.

Tim Duncan was huge early, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the first half. With Tony Parker struggling to get into a flow, Duncan provided the ballast his team needed as both a scorer and a drawer of attention that opened up opportunities for others.

Kawhi Leonard was also big all night, hitting timely shots and while erasing Klay Thompson defensively. Nearly every single one of Leonard’s 16 points seemed to come on a big basket, as he hit jumpers to nip a potential Warrior run in the bud or converted a shot inside to bolster the Spurs lead.

And while Parker and Manu Ginobili struggled all night to score for themselves — they combined to shoot 4-22 from the floor for 18 points — they more than made up for it by creating good shots for others, tallying 19 assists between them. Both were so good in maintaining their aggressiveness off the dribble, threatening the defense and then picking out teammates for makable shots.

Of all the Spurs that deserve credit, though, head coach Gregg Popovich should receive a fair amount. As the series has advanced he’s made the right moves over and over again, putting his players in position to succeed. Down the stretch of this game he went small to spread the Warriors out, sitting Tim Duncan in the process. Pop relied on Tiago Splitter to man the middle and the big man delivered, playing strong defense on one end and occupying defenders as the dive man in the pick and roll on the other. Splitter’s activity was crucial in creating space on offense and taking it away on defense, allowing the Spurs to hold on down the stretch.

This truly was a fantastic series and, in a way, fans should feel a bit cheated that they didn’t get a game 7 to decide who should advance. But it wasn’t meant to be. The Warriors showed they had the heart, but they were just a bit too banged up and lacked that extra kick to break through.

Meanwhile the Spurs showed that they have that right mix of youth and veterans, talent, and coaching to get it done. Again.

  1. ragingmouse - May 17, 2013 at 2:17 AM

    Great article totally agree!

    Now a much different opponent !!!!!

    • sdurry8154 - May 17, 2013 at 4:14 AM


    • spthegr8 - May 17, 2013 at 9:43 AM

      The Spurs are a WELL OILED MACHINE!! I picked the Spurs in 5 in this Series. ( My HATS off too GSW & Mark Jackson, my pick for coach of the year. They are just getting started ) They have the best coach in the league in Pop and a group of guys that ALL just get IT!! They have depth, SIZE, experience, the list goes on & on. Buuuuuut, I got the Grizz in 6. They are HOT right now and Z-Bo and Gasol are BALLIN!! The Grizz match up good with them and LH is doing a helluva job coaching that team!! Gonna be a good series either way.

  2. Mr. Wright 212 - May 17, 2013 at 2:57 AM

    Grizzlies in 5. 6 max.

    • andrewproughcfe - May 17, 2013 at 8:06 AM


      As a Spurs fan I’m worried, because without the sprained ankle by Curry I don’t think they would have won this series. He seemed to slow down just enough for their defensive schemes to take hold. If Memphis comes at them at full strength, it could get ugly fairly early.

  3. funktron2x - May 17, 2013 at 3:40 AM

    If the Spurs can keep GS’ offense down, how the Grizz gonna score? lol

    • spthegr8 - May 17, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      “How are the Grizz gonna score”?? Conley is quick as a hick-up and can get in the paint breaking down the other teams D, creating opportunities for the BIGS and open looks for their shooters. They also have a GREAT Hi-Lo game with Z-Bo & Gasol. Z-Bo is the best in the league @ using his body and feet for low-post position and Gasol is the best passing BIG in the league ( who can knock down that 15-18 foot jumper all night ) So the Grizz aren’t as good offensively as the GSW. But don’t be mistaken, they can score!!! Just Saying!!!

    • money2long - May 17, 2013 at 10:16 AM

      i think you just influenced a lot of people’s prediction on the series with this comment.

      • spthegr8 - May 17, 2013 at 10:32 AM

        LoL!! Who you got Bruh????

      • money2long - May 17, 2013 at 11:44 AM

        sorta see it as take-your-pick. but i was leaning toward the spurs. and dude’s comment nudged me a little further into san antonio’s corner for this series.

      • spthegr8 - May 17, 2013 at 1:20 PM

        It’s a tough series too call. It’s definitely going 6 or 7 games. With my squad out of the running ( never really got in the running too be honest ) I just wanna see some good, competitive series!!

  4. markv00 - May 17, 2013 at 3:55 AM

    As a basketball fan, Great Series. As a Spurs fan even better series. First, alot of credit to Mark Jackson, he had a young team believing they could do what few thought they could do, battle the elite. They did awesome. A few more offensive weapons and a couple of years more of experience from the coach on down and this will be a dangerous team.

    The Spurs once again showed that consistency that keeps the machine winning year after year (not just titles), I mean the culture that starts at the top and runs throughout the organization. I thought our guys looked tired after game 1 and never quite recovered, but Pop’s game management and adjustments put them in a position to win.

    They’re not flashy they just win. Quite a few teams and players are flashy but without the championships and they seem fine with that as long as they get their sponsorships deals. The Spurs care about getting better and winning.

    Do they have the legs, matchups or even just a little luck to get another title? I hope so, but Memphis is tough, they found that out a couple of years ago. If they do get past them, that is a good primer for a Miami/Spurs matchup that I’d love to see.

    SA’s best to Barnes, that was a bad fall and we wish him a speedy recovery.

  5. kavika6 - May 17, 2013 at 5:48 AM

    Moving from the splash brothers to the bash brothers. Time to show how over-rated the Memphis defense is. If the Spurs can survive (literally) the physical beating from the Memphis bigs, Bosh and Birdman will be pushovers in the finals.

    • money2long - May 17, 2013 at 10:13 AM

      bash brothers or rather, smash brothers. haa. shoutout nintendo. throwback game

      • majinstylee - May 17, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        Or the bash brothers from the second Mighty Ducks movie

  6. pistolpete0903 - May 17, 2013 at 5:57 AM

    The key for Spurs is to beat the Grizz from the perimeter (they have the personnel in Parker, Green, Leonard and Ginobili). I can see some touches for Duncan inside, however much of the scoring has to come from outside the paint. Memphis has good back court defenders Allen and Conley, so something gotta give.
    The key is how do they defend Gasol and Zebo. Duncan is good, but not at his younger best. Blair and Splitter need to step up big time.
    Should be fun to watch.

  7. lemfax - May 17, 2013 at 6:41 AM

    Spurs vs Heat!

    • fanofevilempire - May 17, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      that will be a sweep….

      knickerbockers vs grizzlies

  8. fanofevilempire - May 17, 2013 at 7:11 AM

    Memphis will dominate down low.

    Hey Barkley, you had Memphis ALL years

  9. apmn - May 17, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    I’m a Spurs fan, but this series has turned me into a fan of this Warriors team. They are going to be a great team, and they do it with class!

  10. bucrightoff - May 17, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    Just out of curiousity, how many of the top 25 players of all time would willingly sit on the bench in the final 4 minutes of a closeout game, and not even blink an eye? This is why we should appreciate Tim Duncan while we can, the ultimate great player who’s all about winning and thats about it.

    • azarkhan - May 17, 2013 at 1:06 PM

      Good point. When it comes to arrogance, the Spurs tend to leave that to players like Allen Iverson.

      • fanofevilempire - May 17, 2013 at 5:58 PM

        is he playing in this series?

    • loungefly74 - May 17, 2013 at 4:21 PM

      actually…isn’t it very common to put in the bench on mop-up time? hold on…4 minutes? i could have sworn TD was out there till the last 1 minute…big difference…but you may be right…

  11. golfrangeman - May 17, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    I’m going with the spurs. Mr wright tends to be Mr wrong

  12. 16x8equal49ers - May 17, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    Like most of the major sports, the semifinals/conference games are ussually better than than championship games. I think Memphis & San Antonio will be best series of these 2013 Playoffs. Heat are winning in 6 despite who they face in Finals.

  13. azarkhan - May 17, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    I think the Spurs match up very well with the Grizzlies, in fact better than they did with the Warriors. Grindhouse basketball, with scores in the 80’s and 90’s, will suit the Spurs just fine.

  14. baymac408 - May 17, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    Spurs did a good job closing out the series.. I think it would have been different with a healthy D Lee and steph’s ankles at 100%.. I had Fun this year it was amazing!! THANK YOU! To everybody involved in the WARRIORS

  15. baymac408 - May 17, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    THANK YOU TO EVERYBODY INVOLVED IN THE WARRIORS ORGANIZATION! This year was a great run!! Amazing for us fans to watch!! I love my team an they showed heart and determination this whole year!! THANK YOU WARRIORS it’s much appreciated from the fans that have been down for years!! W’s for Life!

    • loungefly74 - May 17, 2013 at 4:25 PM

      it was good to see the Warriors playing deep in the playoffs…good times…like when Mullins, Hardaway, Sarunas Marciulionis, etc…played. good job, warriors.

    • markv00 - May 17, 2013 at 7:06 PM

      Spurs Fan here, I feel your emotions. Even though the Spurs have been consistent winners almost since joining the NBA from ABA, the playoff shortfalls became expected and wore us fans down.

      When they finally got one in the short ’99 season, still no respect. I think the W’s are alot like the Spurs as far as their path to success. This was an amazing year for your guys and the Clips (Coach Vinny, former spurs guard).

      Things happen in cycles, this is our time now, but the Spurs are on borrowed time. I like the young guys we have. GS has a young coach who I hope the suits allow to mature and build something that will last, not just get one and move on.

      The teams has heart, may have to tweak the bench depth and continue to have the go to guys learn to help when they aren’t shooting well. This was a great series and I was a little worried going into game 5, but then things sorted out quickly in that one.

      Hang in there, even if they take a step back or stay idle, stay behind your guys, their days WILL come.

      SA’s Best

  16. baymac408 - May 17, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    Heat vs grizz finals.. My prediction

  17. baymac408 - May 17, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    I feel that

  18. fanofevilempire - May 17, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    I guess nobody had a good time at the Bobcats game.
    That is sad.

  19. anhdazman - May 18, 2013 at 2:46 AM

    Got to tip your hats to the Spurs. Dynasty with all those recent Championships as Duncan lead the team. I thought GSW youth can finally catch up to SA age, but it was experience and great coaching that once again led the Spurs to the next round.
    GSW should take a lot of notes vs SA, that’s what we need to learn from in order to become World Champions.
    That unit plays as a team. There are stars on that team, but everyone is dangerous and everyone contributes to make them so darn good.

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