Athletes sometimes can be like politicians when it comes to spin. Both species abhor defeat and can find something positive in the toughest of losses.
The Spurs' 97-87 overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series Sunday is a good case in point.
"All in all we played pretty well," Spurs forward Tim Duncan said Monday. "Shots just didn't go down for us."
Despite clanging their way to their worst shooting percentage since the first few weeks of Duncan's rookie season in 1997, the Spurs appeared poised to take command of the series before they blew it at crunch time.
While the Spurs struggled mightily to score, the Warriors rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final 4:49 of the fourth quarter to tie the game in regulation and pulled away in overtime at home to even the series 2-2.
Game 5 is scheduled to tip off at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the AT&T Center.
The series shifts back to Oakland, Calif., for Game 6 Thursday night. If necessary, Game 7 would be Sunday at the AT&T Center at a time to be determined.
The Spurs hit only 35.5 percent of their field-goal attempts in Game 4 and were stone cold down the stretch, missing 15 of their last 17 shots. They were just 25.9 percent from beyond the arc and 56 percent at the free-throw line.
Combined, it was the Spurs' worst shooting exhibition since the 11th game of the 1997-98 season. The Spurs hadn't shot that badly in a playoff game since April 23, 2009, when they hit only 32.1 percent of their field-goal attempts against Dallas in Game 3 of a first-round series won by the Mavericks.
Spurs shooting only 42.1 percent in series
Particularly troubling for the Spurs' in Game 4 was their poor performance at the free-throw line, where they missed 11 of 25 attempts.
"We left a bunch of points at the free-throw line," Duncan said. "Our shooting wasn't great, but all in all, I don't think we're going to change a whole lot. We're going to go out there and do exactly the same, and try to get the same situation.
"We hold them in the 80s in regulation, and that's where we'd love to have them. We win those games usually."
Duncan has a point. Sure, the Spurs shot poorly. But they still led by eight points midway through the fourth quarter, and the Warriors needed overtime to win – at home.
Although the Spurs are shooting just 42.1 percent in the series, Coach Gregg Popovich, as always, is more focused on the team's defense.
"Hopefully it's an aberration to be that bad," Popovich said of the Spurs' frigid shooting. "But you can't count on that. They go in or they don't. What you have to count on is your defense, your aggressiveness, your physicality. Those things. That's what we're looking for."
While the Warriors are a better defensive team that people give them credit for, the Spurs are getting good shots. They just aren't falling.
"We never shot this poorly for this many games in a stretch," Popovich said.
The Warriors didn't shoot considerably better than the Silver & Black, hitting only 38 percent (35/92) of their field-goal attempts. But unlike the Spurs, the Warriors got hot at the right time. They outscored the Silver & Black 25-7 in the final five minutes of regulation and in overtime.
Barnes, Jack combined combined for 50 points, 17 rebounds
Shooting phenom Stephen Curry still scored 22 points despite being slowed by a sprained left ankle, but backcourt mate Klay Thompson finished with only 10 points.
"Those are two wonderful players," Popovich said. "You don't stop them, but you try to make them work for everything they get. They can bust out at any moment, so we never comfortable that we stopped anybody, especially those two."
Rookie forward Harrison Barnes led the Warriors, the youngest team left in the playoffs, with a career-high 26 points. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, and finished with 10 rebounds.
"Barnes got away from us a little bit," Duncan said. "Jack, obviously, had a great stretch when he brought them back into the game toward the end. They've got lot of different scorers, but we can't lose our focus on Klay or Curry. We know what else they have. We just have to do a better job all around."
Backup guard Jarrett Jack added 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists
Spurs reserve guard Manu Ginobili, who led the Spurs with 21 points, said both teams are playing defense with an intensity that's synonymous with the postseason.
"After four games, we know each other very well now," Ginobili said. "As you can tell, defense has been dominating. No one could have guessed that a game between us two would have finished 84-84 (in regulation).
"Defense is getting tight, physical, and percentages are going down. But we think we can do much better than that."
Slowed by a bruised left calf, Spurs point guard Tony Parker finished with 17 points in Sunday's loss after scoring 32 in San Antonio's Game 3 win.
"He looks great," Duncan said when asked about Parker. "He says he feels fine. Just like everybody else, he just didn't make some of the shots he usually does. Hopefully we can clean that up."