Spurs coach Gregg Popovich announced before the game that forward Kawhi Leonard, who sprained his left ankle in Game 5 on Tuesday, will sit out Game 6. But even without Kawhi in overtime of Game 5, the Spurs still pulled out a victory.
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*
Nursing a sprained left ankle, Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard said he planned to play in Game 6 against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals.
But coach Gregg Popovich said otherwise when he met with the media before the game, ruling Leonard out for Thursday night's game.
It’s important to note that Leonard pronounced his availability Tuesday night, minutes after the Silver and Black completed a dramatic 110-107 overtime victory without him in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
The Spurs officially listed Leonard as questionable for Game 6, which tips off at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Toyota Center in Houston. A San Antonio victory would put the Spurs in the conference finals for the first time since 2014 when they won their last of five NBA titles.
If Houston forces a Game 7, it would be played at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the AT&T Center.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds in Game 5. “They’re a great offensive team and a bunch of competitive guys. They play way more confident at home. It’s going to be about taking care of the ball and playing confident and just trying to minimize our mistakes out there.”
Since the Spurs traveled Wednesday and didn’t meet with the media, an update on Leonard’s ankle wasn't available until the team’s shootaround Thursday morning. Popovich told reporters then that the call on Leonard's status would be a game-time decision.
Already playing without veteran point guard Tony Parker, the Spurs will be hard pressed to beat the Rockets on their home floor in an elimination game.
Leonard injured his left ankle when he inadvertently stepped on Rockets point guard James Harden’s while chasing a loose ball. The sequence ended with Jonathon Simmons scoring on a fast-break dunk with 5:37 left in the third quarter.
Leonard stayed in the game and played the entire third period, scoring 10 of his team-high 22 points. He started the fourth quarter but was pulled by Popovich with 5:37 left in the period when it became obvious Leonard couldn’t push off the left foot.
“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 walked with a slight limp after turning the ankle, but he didn’t appear to be in pain when he met with the media after the game.
“I’m going to play,” he said.
Spurs guard Danny Green said after the game that it was difficult to gauge Leonard’s pain level because he’s tough to read.
“You never know with him,” Green said. “His facial expressions don’t change, so it’s hard to tell if he’s experiencing any pain. But he looked OK. He’s walking.”
Besides scoring 22 points, Leonard had 15 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks in Game 5. Houston led by nine in the third quarter, but the Spurs fought back and trailed by only one (86-85) after Green buried a 3-pointer at the end of the period.
The explosive Rockets scored only 22 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Green scored the last seven points in overtime, including a huge 3-pointer that put the Silver and Black up 106-104 with 56.5 seconds left, and 39-year-old Manu Ginobili blocked Harden’s 3-pointer as time ran out.
“It was a gutsy win and everyone that came on the court made an impact and executed their role,” said Patty Mills, who started at point guard for the first time since Parker ruptured a left quadriceps tendon in Game 2 and was lost for the remainder of the postseason. “That’s huge when situations like that (a key player going out) happen, it’s trust and everyone stepped up.”
Mills had a stellar game in the Game 5 victory, finishing with 20 points and four assists. He hit 7 of 12 shots, including 5 of 12 attempts from the 3-point line.
The Spurs won despite another big-time performance by Harden, who had a triple-double with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.
“We let one slip away,” Harden said. “Execution and rebounding are probably the two primary things we let slip away. But we still have an opportunity in Game 6 to protect home court and bring it back (to San Antonio) for Game 7.”
Patrick Beverley scored 20 points for Houston and Eric Gordon, who started for forward Ryan Anderson in coach Mike Antoni's small-ball lineup, had 11.
The Rockets shot 33.3 percent (16/48) from the 3-point line. The Spurs also hit a third of their 3-pointers, making 11 of 33 attempts.
"We didn't quite get it done, but you know, it's a long way from being over and we'll find that energy," D'Antoni said. "Houston's another story and we'll meet back here (San Antonio) and try again."
Ginobili already had played a key role for the Spurs before he made the key defensive player of the game, finishing with 12 points, seven rebounds, and five assists.
“We really hustled down the stretch with some good plays,” Ginobili said. “It was like flipping a coin. (It) could have gone for any of the two. It fell on our side and now we’re going to Houston 3-2, so we’re in a good situation.”
While the Spurs are within one victory of ending the series, Leonard cautioned against thinking they have the upper hand.
“We’re not in control until we win Game 6,” he said.
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