TNT’s John Thompson: Can Spurs return to NBA Finals?
Ginobili didn’t let anything stop him with Game 5—and perhaps an entire first-round series—on the line.
Buffered by the support of his teammates and a home crowd, Ginobili scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, helping the San Antonio Spurs hold off the Sacramento Kings 109-98 Tuesday night to take a pivotal 3-2 series lead.
“I felt better, no doubt,” Ginobili said. “It wasn’t that hard to feel better than Game 3 and Game 4.”
Bonzi Wells led Sacramento with 38 points and Artest had 24, but their two-man show wasn’t enough against a deep Spurs attack led by Ginobili.
Ginobili shot 9-of-14 and added nine rebounds and four assists. He helped seal the victory with six straight free throws in the final period, the perfect tonic for his turnover that led to Sacramento’s winning shot in the closing seconds of Game 3.
“I just calmed down a bit,” said Ginobili, who had only 11 points over the last two games. “I was too frustrated in Game 4 because of what happened in Game 3. I tried to forget everything and play more calm, letting things come to me. I didn’t force the issue.”
“Manu is a competitor,” Duncan said. “Mentally, he was prepared and he was ready to go tonight. He wanted to really come out here and attack these guys and not settle for anything less.”
When Wells capped a 14-point rally to tie the game with 3:36 to go, Ginobili immediately answered with a layup right through the middle of the defense— Artest and all. He went to the rim again soon after, making another layup for a 99-95 lead. The Kings never got closer than three points the rest of the way.
“We couldn’t get over that hump,” Wells said. “They had too many inside layups. They do an excellent job spreading us out and getting the ball into Tony Parker or Ginobili’s hands.”
Artest said the big offensive effort was wasted because “we didn’t get any stops.”
“We just didn’t execute tonight on defense,” he said.
Eighth-seeded Sacramento still has a chance to pull off the upset, but it won’t be easy. The Kings must win Friday night at home to force a Game 7 in San Antonio on Sunday.
“Nobody is counting us out, except maybe Spurs fans,” Artest said. “We’ll be all right.”
After consecutive losses in Sacramento, the defending champion Spurs weren’t about to stumble into their first three-game losing streak of the season.
Chalk it up partly to their championship pedigree, one that’s been forged on Game 5 wins in series tied 2-2. Seriously.
This is the seventh time they’ve been in such a predicament and the sixth time they’ve won the pivotal fifth game. They did it three times en route to the 2003 championship and twice on their way to last year’s title. They’ve followed that formula in both those NBA Finals, too.
In fact, Game 5 winners in best-of-seven series that are tied at 2 have advanced 107 of 128 times in NBA history, a whopping 83.5 percent.
“We are just going to try and change those percentages,” Wells said.
The Spurs opened a 10-point lead early in the second quarter, but Wells led the Kings back. His nasty dunk with 54 seconds left put Sacramento ahead and Artest stretched it with a layup in the closing seconds for a 46-43 halftime lead.
Wells kept going in the start of the third quarter; at one point, he was 10-of-13 and his teammates were 12-of-38.
“Bonzi’s been a one-man wrecking crew,” Duncan said.
That one-man force was enough for the Kings to be up 54-51 four minutes into the third quarter. Then came a spread-the-wealth approach by the Spurs—a 9-0 run featuring points from four different players that eventually led to a 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
Artest got rolling in the final period, hitting a layup that got the Kings within 91-88. Wells’ tying 3 followed.
“The crazy thing is, we shot 57 percent and beat them in rebounds (40-30) and we still were so close,” Ginobili said. “They are playing great. We really got to respect them and think about playing even better than today.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and several players were delayed getting to the arena by a hail storm that hit the area about three hours before the game. … San Antonio started Robert Horry at center. Nazr Mohammed started the first three games, then Rasho Nesterovic got the nod for Game 4. … Parker made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter. An even longer one at the end of the second quarter was released too late.