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Spurs hold off Warriors, advance to West finals

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are back in the Western Conference finals.

However, chances are they wouldn't be there without generally unheralded San Antonio Spurs teammates Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

The Spurs used a team effort and three late 3-pointers, two by Parker, to break open a close game Thursday night and beat the Golden State Warriors 94-82 to win their Western Conference semifinal series 4-2.

The series victory vaults the Spurs into the Western finals against the Memphis Grizzlies, with the first game scheduled for Sunday in San Antonio. The second-seeded Spurs have the home-court advantage over the fifth-seeded Grizzlies in the best-of-seven series.

The Spurs and Grizzlies split their four-game series in the regular season, each team winning twice on its home court.

San Antonio led just 77-75 Thursday and then survived two misses by Warriors star Stephen Curry before scoring 11 of the game's next 15 points to put away a pesky Golden State club that upset the second-seeded Denver Nuggets in the first round.

"I think everybody on this team, we all want to go one more time," Parker said of the Spurs' bid for a fifth title. "It's been a long time since 2007 (the Spurs' last appearance in the NBA Finals). I think everybody understands that opportunities don't come very often.

"Last year we missed one. We were two games away. This year we have another opportunity to go to the Finals."

Parker, a three-time champion in his career, extended the Spurs' 77-75 lead to five when, after Splitter retrieved an offensive rebound, he took a Ginobili feed all alone in the left corner and swished his first 3-pointer of the game with 3:36 left.

Leonard, a thorn in the Warriors' side all series, increased difference to 82-75 with two free throws on San Antonio's next possession. But Golden State made one last push, countering with a bucket and two free throws by Jarrett Jack to close the gap back to three with 2:20 to play.

Leonard then doubled the margin with a 3-pointer, and after Klay Thompson and Curry both missed 3s at the other end, Parker found himself open for another 3 and an 88-79 advantage with 1:15 to play, effectively finishing off the Warriors and wrapping up San Antonio's first-ever playoff-series victory over Golden State.

"Sometimes in the end, it comes down to making shots," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich noted. "We made some shots down the stretch, and they didn't. Even though Tony was 3-for-16, we stuck with him."

Duncan, playing in his 200th career playoff game, led the Spurs with 19 points, but he was relegated mostly to the bench during the club's late run. Parker managed 13 points despite 3-for-16 shooting, and Ginobili had 11 assists but just five points on 1-for-6 shooting.

While the Big Three weren't at their best, the Spurs' role players were. Leonard recorded a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double. Splitter, hitting six of his eight shots, had 14 points, and Green buried three of four from 3-point range to account for a majority of his 11 points.

The Spurs outshot the Warriors 45.2 percent to 38.8 percent, outscored them 21-12 from 3-point range and outrebounded them 46-40.

"I think everybody did something positive," Parker said. "At the end, my teammates, they believed in me, and I finally made some shots."

Curry, hitting just 10 of 25 shots and just two of eight from 3-point range, was high scorer for the Warriors with 22 points. Jack chipped in 15, and Carl Landry added 11 off the bench.

However, the Warriors couldn't match the Spurs' balance. Thompson, who missed eight of his 12 shots, was held to 10 points. Harrison Barnes, the Warriors' big scorer in Games 4 and 5, had just nine points before having to call it a night because of a head injury suffered in the second quarter. Andrew Bogut managed just 20 generally ineffective minutes, contributing three points and seven rebounds.

"Guys gave me everything they had. We fought," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "I can go on and win championships, and I will not be prouder of any group I ever coach than this group."

After building their lead as high as 12 points in the third quarter, the Spurs saw the advantage shrink to one after a Thompson 3-pointer in the third minute of the fourth period and later to 77-75 when Curry drilled an 18-footer with 4:57 to play.

However, Curry missed consecutive jumpers that could have tied the game, and the Spurs got hot from beyond the 3-point arc, ending sixth-seeded Golden State's season.

"Tonight was a microcosm of what he is as a player," Curry said of Parker. "He was shooting the ball terribly the whole game, then he hits two big shots down the stretch, gets them over the hump.

"He's a championship point guard, future Hall of Famer. To go against him, it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot."

Barnes' injury occurred with 1:15 left in the half when he tried to prevent a Boris Diaw layup. The rookie flipped in the air as he got tangled with Diaw, and Barnes fell hard on his right side and head.

After several minutes on the floor, he was helped to the locker room. He took six stitches above the right eye and was able to start the second half, but he later complained of headaches and couldn't finish the game.

NOTES: The Spurs lost to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals last year. ... The Spurs never trailed in the game after the 3:09 mark of the first quarter. ... Leonard shot 55.7 percent in the series, making 34 of his 61 shots. ... The Warriors haven't won two series in the same postseason since their championship run in 1975. ... Duncan joined an exclusive club of guys who have played in 200 or playoff games: Robert Horry (244), Derek Fisher (240), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (237), Kobe Bryant (220), Shaquille O'Neal (216) and Scottie Pippen (208).

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