Think of what could have been had the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard not sat out overtime with a sprained left ankle against the Rockets on Tuesday night. Oh wait, the Spurs won anyway in a 110-107 overtime thriller to take a 3-2 lead over Houston in their series that will determine who gets the unfortunate opportunity of seeing the 8-0 Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. It was a humdinger of a game in San Antonio and the Spurs have taken control, despite not having the services of Leonard for the entire overtime period and most of the fourth quarter. Game 6 is in Houston on Thursday, with Game 7 set at San Antonio on Sunday, if necessary. And I’m pretty sure it will be necessary.
The Rockets still think they’re the better team and plan on winning handily at home on Thursday to force Game 7. Last night’s game was a seesaw affair, featuring 14 lead changes and six ties. The winner of Game 5 in the NBA playoffs usually wins the series, but I’m not so sure about this one. You have to think the Rockets will regroup and win at home, and if the 3-pointers are flying and dropping in Game 7, it will be anybody’s game in San Antonio. Houston’s Mike D’Antoni is the textbook definition of a “live with the three, die with the three” coach and we’re about to see it unfold before our eyes.
Here are the numbers from last night’s epic contest.
For the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard led the way with 22 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, two steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer on 8-of-21 shooting, but he saw limited minutes in the fourth quarter and didn’t even play in the overtime period after stepping on Harden’s foot and twisting his left ankle. I feel like he’s more gimpy than injured and Gregg Popovich is going to look like a genius for sitting/resting him and still getting the win in overtime. Whether or not Leonard plays in Game 6 is up for debate, but I will be utterly shocked if he isn’t in the starting lineup for the Spurs on Thursday. And Leonard has already said he’ll be out there in Game 6. Leonard was All-World in this one, at least until he took a seat on the bench and tried to stretch out his bum ankle for the remainder of the game.
Patty Mills, filling in for point guard Tony Parker (knee), had 20 points, four assists, a steal and five 3-pointers in 43 minutes, LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points, 14 rebounds and a steal on 7-of-21 shooting, and Danny Green came through with 16 points, five boards, three assists and four 3-pointers on 5-of-11 shooting in 40 minutes. The Spurs didn’t shoot it well, but still hung on for the gritty win, despite a crucial missed free throw from Green late. Manu Ginobili and Jonathon Simmons each scored 12 points in 32 minutes off the bench, and Manu was especially fun with seven rebounds, five assists and the game-winning block against James Harden at the overtime buzzer. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a cleaner block from behind than that one. Manu also had a huge 3-pointer and rare dunk in his ‘turn-back-the-clock’ game and played really well throughout. Simmons also played pretty stout defense on Harden late in the game, although he still let him by more times than I care to count. The Spurs’ team defense against Harden was on point. Ginobili was all over the place and was this game’s MVP, Mills was a beast, making the San Antonio faithful forget about Parker last night, and Green also came through when it counted. Popovich gambled by sitting Leonard, but the move paid off in a beautiful way for the Spurs.
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The Rockets only played SEVEN players in the entire overtime game. SEVEN. You can’t tell me that a fresh Montrezl Harrell or Sam Dekker might not have helped last night. It’s hard to believe an NBA team played just seven players in a crucial Game 5, but it happened. James Harden did what he could, hitting 11-of-24 shots, 4-of-15 3-pointers and 7-of-8 3-pointers for 33 points, 10 boards, 10 assists and nine turnovers, just missing a dubious quadruple-double. Yeah, Simmons played good D on Harden, but I’m of the opinion that Harden did more to hurt himself than Simmons did, as Harden held the ball until the waning seconds of the shot clock on too many occasions, and then made some bad decisions. He looked like a younger version of “Iso Joe Johnson” out there last night, and the other Spurs were just waiting for him. Patrick Beverley, playing to honor his late grandfather, was great, dropping 20 points, four rebounds and five 3-pointers in 42 minutes, and Ryan Anderson came off the bench for the first time all season to rack up 19 points, seven boards and three 3-pointers on 7-of-11 shooting in 36 minutes.
Trevor Ariza started at power forward and had nine points, eight boards, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers on 3-of-10 shooting in 40 minutes, starting center Clint Capela added nine points, 11 rebounds, a steal and three blocks, and Eric Gordon had 11 points, six boards, three assists and a 3-pointer on 4-of-13 shooting after being elevated into the starting lineup due to Nene’s season-ending groin injury. The only other Rocket to get into the game was Lou Williams, who hit just 3-of-10 shots and missed all five of his 3-pointers to finish with six points and four assists. I guess if you want to blame someone for this loss, I’d pick Harden’s turnovers, followed by Gordon’s shooting, followed by Williams’ disappearing act. The Rockets hit just 16-of-48 3-pointers last night, good for 33 percent, and the outcome of this game would have been different had they hit one more than that. D’Antoni’s reluctance to use his bench also came back to haunt him on Tuesday night.
I’ll be very surprised if the Rockets don’t win at home on Thursday and Sunday’s Game 7 should be one for the ages, based on how Tuesday’s game ended.
Danny Green hit a 3-pointer to put the Rockets up two with less than a minute to play. He scored seven points in overtime and really came through for his team with Leonard sitting.
Anderson countered with a 3-pointer to put the Rockets up one.
Green hit a driving layup and got fouled, putting the Spurs up 109-107 with 30 seconds remaining.
Gordon missed a 3-pointer and Green got the rebound for the Spurs. Green was fouled and hit 1-of-2 free throws to give the Rockets a chance, down 110-107 with 15.7 seconds remaining.
Gordon then dribbled it off his foot to force a jump ball with Mills, which ended up in the hands of Harden. Harden then went up for what looked like an uncontested 3-pointer to tie the game at the buzzer, but Ginobili got all ball from behind to end the game. It was a classic.
The Spurs scored the last seven points of overtime.
Wizards @ Celtics tied 2-2 at 8 p.m. on TNT
These teams are 8-0 against each other at home this season, so the No. 1 seeded Celtics seem to hold the upper hand. I think the winner of Game 5 will win this series. The Celtics will have to slow down either John Wall or Bradley Beal, but that will not be easy to do. Meanwhile, the Wizards will have to contain Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley. The Celtics’ home crowd will be behind the team and Kelly Olynyk, who is being branded as a dirty player after his hit on Kelly Oubre, even though he’s far from a dirty player, at least in my book.
Regardless of who wins tonight’s game, this series also appears to be going seven, and should make for some high drama on Sunday and Monday. If both series are extended, the Rockets will visit the Spurs for Game 7 on Sunday at 3:30 p.m., and the Wizards would visit the Celtics on Monday night at 8 p.m. I can’t wait.