OAKLAND (AP) — Forgive the San Antonio Spurs if they aren’t that excited about holding a 3-2 series lead over the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals.
After all, they’ve been ahead twice before.
If the Spurs want to close out the Warriors in Game 6 on Thursday night at rowdy Oracle Arena, they’ll have to do what neither team has in this series: win consecutive games. Golden State also is 4-0 after a loss in the playoffs.
“Nobody talks about getting this over with like you’ve got a rash,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Like you can take a pill or put some cream on it, it’s going to be gone. This is a war. They’re a class team. They bust their (butts) at both ends of the floor. It’s not about getting rid of anything. It’s about going and playing and that’s about it.”
San Antonio has increasingly shown its veteran savvy the last three games, and Golden State has looked like it’s finally wearing down from all its injuries.
Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and the rest of the Spurs overwhelmed the Warriors in Tuesday night’s 109-91 win in San Antonio. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — described by Coach Mark Jackson as the “greatest shooting backcourt in NBA history” — combined to score just 13 points on 6-of-22 shooting.
Curry has refused to use the left ankle he sprained late in Game 3 as an excuse, but anybody who has watched can clearly see he has been slowed by the injury. Thompson, who failed to even attempt a 3-pointer for the first time all season Tuesday, has been shut down by San Antonio since scoring 34 points in Game 2.
Neither Curry nor Thompson was made available to speak to reporters during the team’s light shootaround Wednesday in Oakland. The rest of the Warriors insist they’re not worried about the “Splash Brothers” or the team’s ability to respond.
“We’re never going to quit. We’re never going to die. We’ve got a lot of fight left. This isn’t the end,” Warriors forward Carl Landry said. “Actually, we’re excited about having the opportunity to play in a Game 6. Everybody in that locker room is excited and ready.”
The odds are not in Golden State’s favor.
Teams that have won Game 5 of a best-of-seven series that was tied have gone on to win the series 88 out of 99 times. However, those teams are 50-49 in Game 6.
The Spurs have won 11 of 12 best-of-seven series when leading 3-2. The last time the Warriors came back from a 3-2 deficit was against the Chicago Bulls in the 1975 Western Conference finals, when the franchise went on to win its only NBA title.
Despite all the doubt, Golden State has overcome every obstacle it has faced this season — from forward Brandon Rush’s season-ending left knee injury in the home opener to center Andrew Bogut’s sore left ankle throughout the year to All-Star forward David Lee’s hip injury in the first round against Denver.
“We are our habits and we have a tight-knit group that is able to make adjustments, own it when they don’t play well and bounce back,” Jackson said. “I have no doubt that will take place again.”
The Spurs are getting production from others besides Parker and Duncan, and that might be the biggest turnaround in a series that has been full of them.
The length of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green has bothered Curry and Thompson. Duncan and Tiago Splitter have put Bogut in foul trouble in two straight games, and San Antonio’s team defense has displayed the “maniacal” effort that Popovich has preached in leading the franchise to four NBA titles.
“That’s how it’s supposed to be,” said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who is starting to find success as a facilitator with his shot not falling. “We are not a team that’s going to have somebody scoring 40 every game that we can rely on. We need everybody to contribute because we are not the most talented team in the league, so we need a contribution from everybody.”
Standing in the way of a second straight Western Conference finals appearance for San Antonio is a gritty Golden State team that has nothing to lose.
Jackson is relying on a phrase he has repeated since the playoffs started: few people expected the Warriors to be a serious contender in the preseason, so there’s no pressure on his players, who echoed those sentiments.
For a franchise that has made the playoffs just twice since 1994, the Warriors are relishing the opportunity to push the conference semifinals to a decisive Game 7, which would be in San Antonio on Sunday.
“It’s almost like an NCAA tournament game,” Landry said. “We just have to go out there and never take any possessions off. After the game, we shouldn’t have anything left. We shouldn’t even be able to walk to our cars. Everything should be left out on the floor.”