It took five extra minutes in overtime, but when the final buzzer sounded in Oklahoma City Saturday, there stood the San Antonio Spurs, victors over the Thunder, with a 112-107 win. With the win, the Spurs are slated to face the defending champion Miami Heat in an NBA Finals rematch of 2013.
Without Tony Parker (left ankle soreness) in the second half, the Spurs were led by their elder veterans in Tim Duncan (19 points, 15 rebounds), Boris Diaw (26 points), and Manu Ginobili (15 points, six rebounds, 5 five assists) through the second half and in the overtime period. However, young forward Kawhi Leonard (17 points, 11 rebounds) also made key defensive plays throughout the night, and especially in the overtime to help the Spurs earn the victory.
After games one through five had been blowouts, the Spurs and Thunder turned Game 6 into a classic boxing match, with the Spurs’ largest lead only reaching 12 points, and the Thunder, seven points. As the Spurs outscored the Thunder 37-20 in the third quarter, the Thunder outscored San Antonio 32-22 in the fourth quarter, to extend their season for five more minutes.
Through the Spurs’ postseason run, in eliminating the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, and now Thunder, the Spurs’ bench has been an integral part in each series victory. Sunday, the Spurs’ bench outscored the Thunder bench 51-5, as veteran Derek Fisher was the only Thunder player to score off the bench.
“You know, I think we’re a little bit deeper off the bench,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich after the game of his team. “I think our bench play is better than it was last year.”
An element the Spurs had been lacking from their losses in Games 3 and 4 in Oklahoma City, was their energy, hustle, and aggressiveness, based on their post-game comments after those games. Sunday there was no question the Spurs played with energy, as they made the hustle plays, by outscoring the Thunder 22-8 in second chance points.
On Parker’s Injury
Parker played 19 minutes in the first half and finished with eight points and two rebounds. After the game, Popovich said Parker’s ankle soreness was an injury that occurred in Game 4.
“I have no idea,” said Popovich if Parker’s ankle will be ready by Game 1 of the Finals. “I don’t know what the deal is. He came to me about eight minutes on the clock and said he couldn’t go. He couldn’t cut. He was limping on it. He couldn’t cut sideways or forward really. He sprained it in Game 4, and he aggravated it in Game 5. We didn’t make a big deal out of it, but I guess it caught up with him, so we talked a lot. I didn’t want him to be a hero because he was 50 percent or less we thought. That’s probably bad for the team if you think about it.”
“It was a tough decision to try to figure out whether to play him, and if you lose the game and it affects him for Monday night, then you’re going to feel like you made an unwise choice,” continued Popovich. “So I went back and forth, and through the National Anthem and all that time, he tried to get warmer and warmer, and he tried it in the first half, and it wasn’t doing very well. But the 19 minutes he gave us were huge because we couldn’t have gone the whole game without him I don’t think.”
“He showed a lot of guts to be out there and do what he did,” said Popovich. “But at halftime I talked to him. He stiffened up a little bit and I just made the call. He wanted to go and I said you’re not. I just told him to sit.”
Leonard opens Game 6 with dunk
On the Spurs’ opening possession of the game, Leonard began with a throw down dunk over Serge Ibaka. Check out the play (via @CJZero):
Popovich on Fortitude and his team
The term fortitude is defined as the ability to have courage when in pain, or while facing adversity. Popovich used this term in explaining how happy he was for his team, after making a return to the Finals despite the way they lost last year.
“(And ) I think our guys, they actually grew from the loss last year,” said Popovich. “I call it fortitude. I think they showed an unbelievable amount of fortitude. If I can compliment my own team humbly, to have that tough loss, especially the Game 6, and not have a pity party, and come back this year and get back to the same position. I think that’s fortitude, and I’m really proud of them and even happier for them.”
Game 1 of the NBA Finals will tip off on Thursday, June 5th, at 8:00 PM CST.
(Statistics, post-game quotes via NBA.com)