Spurs hold off Warriors, advance to West finals
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — By the time the Golden State Warriors’ magical season came to a close, their struggles to find healthy bodies were matched by their shooting woes.
With the long jumpers no longer falling and the entire starting front line banged up with injuries, the Warriors were eliminated from the playoffs on Thursday night with a 94-82 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of their second-round series.
“I talked about this being a group that at the end of the day, our tank will be on empty and the light will be beaming bright,” coach Mark Jackson said. “I truly believed that’s exactly what took place. Guys battled. Guys gave me everything they had. We fought. I could not be prouder of any group.”
Center Andrew Bogut was a shell of himself all night with a recurrence of his troublesome left ankle injury. Dynamic rookie Harrison Barnes missed the final quarter with headaches after taking a hard fall to the court that required stitches. All-Star power forward David Lee tried to gut his way through a torn right hip flexor.
That doesn’t even mention leading scorer Stephen Curry, who played most of the series on a sprained left ankle.
Those injuries and a poised and talented opponent like the San Antonio Spurs all contributed to Golden State’s second trip to the playoffs in the past 19 seasons ending in the second round.
“It will take a minute to realize the accomplishments we have made, for a Warriors team to be in this position, it’s a good thing, and we can build on this for next year,” Curry said. “We got 3½ months to sit on it and think back and learn from everything, the good and the bad, this year. Whoever is in that Warriors locker room next year will be ready to go.”
A series that started with questions about whether Golden State could end a 16-year drought in San Antonio, ended with the players coming back on the court after the final horn to salute the fans following the second home loss in three games this series.
Fans serenaded the home team with chants of “Warr-i-ors!” in the final seconds. Curry also grabbed the microphone after the game and thanked fans at half court, breaking the huddle with the crowd, “Just us!”
The Warriors had only made the playoffs once since 1994 before this season and hadn’t won two games beyond the first round since 1977.
Golden State began the game short-handed with Lee limited by the hip injury that was supposed to sideline him for the entire playoffs and Bogut hampered by an ankle injury that would have sidelined him for at least a few games in the regular season.
It only got worse when Barnes crashed to the floor late in the second quarter, cutting his eye and banging his head hard on the court. After passing a concussion test at halftime, Barnes missed all three shots he took while playing the entire third quarter before sitting the rest of the way with a headache.
“It’s tough to end this way,” Bogut said. “From a team aspect, we didn’t play well tonight and they closed us out. For me personally, it’s frustrating to finish the season on this note. It felt like a regular-season game for me where I couldn’t do anything out there. I wasn’t moving well, just wasn’t able to really be effective.”
Tim Duncan had 19 points and six rebounds, Kawhi Leonard added 16 points and 10 rebounds and the Spurs held off a final rally to beat the Warriors.
Tony Parker shook off a poor start to score 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter and Tiago Splitter added a career-playoff high 14 points for San Antonio, which watched a 13-point lead in the third quarter dissolve to two in the final minutes.
“They’ve got great character. They’re competitive. They know there’s not a million chances to do this sort of thing. They wanted it,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of his squad.
Curry shot 10 of 25 from the floor to score 22 points on a nagging left ankle, and Jarrett Jack had 15 points as the injury-saddled Warriors finally tired. The Spurs outshot Golden State 45 percent to 39 percent and outrebounded them 46 to 40.
Second-seeded San Antonio will open the conference finals at home against Memphis on Sunday. The fifth-seeded Grizzlies eliminated Oklahoma City in five games.
The Spurs quieted a standing-room-only crowd late in the third quarter and seemingly seized control for good. Instead, the Warriors roared back.
Klay Thompson, who had 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting, made a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter that sliced San Antonio’s lead to three. Then Curry’s pull-up jumper brought the Warriors within 77-75 with 4:52 to play.
Parker was 1 for 13 before hitting a corner 3-pointer before Leonard followed with two free throws to put the Spurs up seven.
Jack made a jumper and two free throws to bring the Warriors back again. Then Leonard hit another shot from beyond the arc to put the Spurs ahead 85-79.
Curry and Thompson each had consecutive 3s rim out on the same possession that could’ve kept Golden State close. But Parker hit another 3-pointer to put San Antonio up 88-79 with 1:15 remaining and send some of the yellow-shirted crowd of 19,596 to the exits.
“I was just missing shots I normally make,” said Thompson, who shot 18 for 53 after scoring 34 points in a Game 2 win in San Antonio. “It’s tough.”
NOTES: NBA Commissioner David Stern, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and prospective Kings owner Vivek Ranadive attended the game. ... The Spurs are 10-1 in closeout games since the start of the 2007 playoffs. ... The Warriors fell to 4-1 after a loss in the playoffs.