Spurs vs. Houston Rockets
Western Conference semifinals
(Spurs lead 3-2)
Game 1: Rockets 126, Spurs 99, May 1, AT&T Center
Game 2: Spurs 121, Rockets 96, May 3, AT&T Center
Game 3: Spurs 103, Rockets 92, Friday, Houston
Game 4: Rockets 125, Spurs 104, Sunday, Houston
Game 5: Spurs 110, Rockets 107, OT, Tuesday, AT&T Center
Game 6: Thursday, 7 p.m., Houston
Game 7: Sunday, 2:30 p.m., AT&T Center*
SAN ANTONIO – Things looked bleak for the Spurs on Tuesday night when an ankle injury sidelined Kawhi Leonard in the fourth quarter of Game 5 against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals.
Already playing without point guard Tony Parker, who was lost for the remainder of the postseason when he ruptured a left quadriceps tendon in Game 2, the Silver and Black appeared out of options against the explosive Rockets.
But, as they’ve done so many times in the last 20 years, the Spurs kept pounding the rock and refused to fold. What followed was one of the most stirring victories in the franchise’s storied playoff history.
In the end, Danny Green scored the Silver and Black’s last seven points, and 39-year-old veteran guard Manu Ginobili made the defensive play of the game blocking a 3-pointer by Rockets star James Harden right before the final buzzer sounded.
Final score: Spurs 110, Rockets 107, in overtime.
“I knew where his shot release is and he went by me,” Ginobili said, talking about Harden’s final shot. “I tried to bother him as much as I could and I found myself very close to the ball, so I went for it. Very risky. It was a risky play, but it was also risky to let him shoot. So, I took my chances.”
The victory gave San Antonio a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, and pushed Houston to the brink of elimination.
Game 6 is at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Toyota Center in Houston. If a Game 7 is necessary, it will be played at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the AT&T Center.
Leonard, who turned his left ankle in the third quarter, led the Spurs with 22 points despite missing the second half of the fourth period and all of OT. Patty Mills, who started at point guard, finished with 20 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Green had 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 4 of 8 from beyond the arc. Coming off the bench, Ginobili finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and one block in 32 minutes. Ginobili brought fans to their feet with a monster, right-handed dunk with two minutes left in the first half.
“Manu’s one of the all-time great competitors and winners obviously, and he helped us do it again tonight,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Popovich also talked about Green aggressiveness on offense.
“Well, he’s getting paid to take shots, so I hope he’s willing,” Popovich said. “I thought everybody pulled together and really played some good defense the last eight minutes without Kawhi being out there. The competitiveness was just off the charts.
“We’re obviously thrilled with the victory. We wouldn’t really been in a hole and, again, either team could’ve won the game down the stretch. We had some great shots. They didn’t fall. And, finally, Danny did what he did. Manu had a great block at the end on James, and it worked out.”
Reserve forward Jonathon Simmons had another good game, scoring 12 points and drawing praise for his defense on Harden.
Leonard said he would be ready to play in Game 6 on Thursday.
Leonard injured his left ankle with 5:41 left in the third quarter, when he stepped on Harden’s left foot during a play in which Mills made a steal and Simmons scored on a fast-break dunk. Leonard stayed in the game and scored 10 points while playing the entire third quarter. He left the game with 4:57 left in the fourth period.
“He didn’t want to come out, obviously,” Popovich said. “We let him play a little while just to see what he was going to be like, but it was obvious that he couldn’t go.”
Leonard, who did not score in the fourth quarter, finished with 15 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.
“It’s frustrating because I want to play. “Like I said, I was happy seeing my teammates out there put in a good effort and getting a win.”
Harden led all scorers with 33 points, hitting 11 of 24 shots, including 4 of 15 from the 3-point line. Patrick Beverley and Ryan Anderson finished with 20 and 19 points, respectively.
The Spurs led 32-29 after one quarter, but the Rockets were ahead 60-58 at the half. San Antonio outscored Houston 28-25 in the third period to take an 86-85 lead into the fourth quarter. The Interstate 10 rivals slugged it out in the fourth quarter before playing to a 101-101 draw in regulation.
The fans hardly sat during the OT period.
After Simmons hit two free throws to draw the Spurs to within one (104-103) with 1:28 left in OT, Green buried a 3-pointer to make it 106-104, San Antonio, with 56.5 seconds remaining.
“He made a great shot,” Popovich said.
Anderson drained a 3-pointer to put Houston back on top 107-106, but Green gave the Silver and Black the lead for good on a two-foot layup with 30.1 seconds left. Fouled on the basket, Green completed the three-point play to put the Spurs up 109-107.
Green was fouled while securing a rebound after a missed 3-pointer by Eric Gordon, but he missed one of the free throws to leave the Silver and Black clinging to a 110-107 lead with 15.7 seconds remaining.
The drama continued with a jump ball between Mills and Gordon with 9.3 seconds left. Gordon won the tip and Harden wound up with the ball. As Harden lined up his 3-point attempt, Ginobili went behind him, timed his jump just right and blocked the shot cleanly.
The crowd responded with a thunderous roar.
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