Players and coaches complained to the refs. Fans booed, threw things and popped balloons.
All Ginobili did was keep hitting his free throws, pushing the San Antonio Spurs to a 91-79 victory Monday night and a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Ginobili scored 22 points, 15 coming in the fourth quarter and 11 of those coming from the foul line. San Antonio was 19-of-25 on free throws in the final period, with four of the attempts courtesy of technical fouls.
“I’m very proud of what we did in the fourth quarter because it was looking ugly for us,” Ginobili said. “We stepped up and did a really good job.”
Some of the calls Ginobili got were questionable, but the key was he forced the action after not doing “too much to get under their skin the first three quarters.” The Jazz weren’t about to let him get to the rim easily and wound up losing their temper as the foul calls mounted.
Utah drew four technicals fouls down the stretch, leading to the ejection of coach Jerry Sloan and usually mild-mannered Derek Fisher. Jazz fans—seeing their team lose at home for the first time in eight games this postseason— showed their disgust by hurling things toward the court, appearing to hit San Antonio’s Bruce Bowen with something small.
“They threw Carmex at me,” Bowen said. “I like Carmex, but not getting it thrown at me.”
Of all the blows landed in this game, the most severe is to Utah’s comeback hopes. After a 26-point win in Game 3, the Jazz felt good about their chances to pull off a historic comeback but now will have to win Game 5 in San Antonio on Wednesday night just to bring the series back to Salt Lake City. Utah has lost 18 straight games in San Antonio dating to 1999.
“I’m sure a lot of people are counting us out in the series,” said Jazz forward Carlos Boozer, who had 18 points and nine rebounds. “We have a much better feel for this team after playing them four times. All we can do is toughen up … see if we can get one in San Antonio.”
Tim Duncan had 19 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and five turnovers. He was 5-of-8 from the line in the fourth quarter, part of San Antonio going 19-of-25 from the stripe.
This ugly-but-effective performance—more free throws (30) than field goals (28)—puts the Spurs within a victory of reaching the NBA finals for the third time in five years, and the fourth time since 1999. San Antonio has won the title each time.
“It could’ve been a tied series and a whole new ballgame,” Duncan said. “It’s a great position to be in.”
Utah’s Deron Williams had 27 points and 10 assists in 38 minutes despite having lost eight pounds the last two days while fighting a stomach ailment. He had two IVs in the morning, then was so good through three quarters that pregame reminders of Michael Jordan overcoming illness to have a huge game against the Jazz in the 1997 NBA finals—made even by Sloan—no longer seemed silly.
But Williams didn’t get enough help. Boozer was the only player to score more than nine points, and he didn’t even make it to the foul line. Neither did center Mehmet Okur.
“We felt there were a couple of things that were questionable … but they won the game,” Williams said. “They made plays. They kept their heads. We were the ones getting the techs, not them. And that’s why they prevailed.”
After three lopsided games, this one got tight midway through the third quarter, starting with Boozer stuffing Duncan on a drive to the rim.
Duncan went down and lingered on the court while Boozer made a jumper on the other end, this time leaving Ginobili on the ground. Parker missed a layup, then Williams dribbled up the court and nailed a jumper at the foul line with Duncan backing up, daring him to shoot.
Utah went into the fourth quarter down 63-62 and was within 67-66 a few minutes later. Then Ginobili hit a 3-pointer, Williams went miss-turnover-miss on the Jazz’s next three possessions and the Spurs soon were up by six points. The Jazz never got closer than four.
San Antonio was up 79-72 when Ginobili got fouled attempting a 3-pointer with 3:57 left. He made all three, and Utah’s hopes were flickering out.
“We just couldn’t keep them off the free-throw line,” Sloan said. Asked about all the technicals, he said: “I don’t want to talk about those because all that does is give me more trouble.”
This was San Antonio’s first playoff win in Salt Lake City. The Spurs had been 0-9 counting losses in 1994, ’96, ’98 and Saturday night. They also were 0-3 in Salt Lake City this season. … The Spurs improved to 6-4 in the game after a playoff loss by 12 or more points since 2004. … Utah’s Gordan Giricek got two fouls in a 3-second span early in the second quarter. Uh, make it three fouls as he got a technical, too, after complaining about the second one. … The “True Blue” T-shirts given out at Game 3 were on sale for $10 this time. … San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich moved back into a tie with Sloan for fifth on the career playoff wins list with No. 87. Neither can catch Red Auerbach’s 99 wins for at least another year.