SAN ANTONIO — In the grand scheme of this second-round Western Conference series, the Golden State Warriors are down 0-1 after Monday’s loss to the host San Antonio Spurs.
But a pivotal question now faces Golden State. Was the 129-127 double-overtime defeat, punctuated by San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili’s devastating game-winning 3-pointer, evidence that the young Warriors can hang with the veteran Spurs, or was it a backbreaking missed opportunity from which they’ll have a tough time recovering?
No doubt, coach Mark Jackson is leaning on the former.
“It was a great game for us, a hard-fought game,” he said. “We’re a young basketball team that will be better at the end of the day. … I saw a lot of good things.”
But it’s hard not to think the latter, that this one was too much to survive. The Warriors, who have now dropped 30 straight in San Antonio, were up by 16 points with 4:31 left before blowing what looked to be a comfortable Game 1 win. They squandered chances to win in both overtimes with poor execution on both ends. And all this happened with Spurs future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, battling stomach flu, sitting out most of the final 14-plus minutes.
Conventional wisdom says the Spurs — who hadn’t played in eight days — kick it into gear and breathe a sigh of relief, having survived the scare, and get back to business.
But the Warriors are trying to cling to the good things, instead of the 18-point lead they surrendered.
Point guard Stephen Curry was dominant, totaling 44 points and 11 assists in 58 minutes. The Warriors outrebounded San Antonio by 10, getting 15 from center Andrew Bogut and 12 from rookie forward Harrison Barnes. They held San Antonio to 43.8 percent shooting.
Those successes are the mints they’re hoping take the sour taste out of their mouths after managing just 14 points in the fourth quarter and leaving shooters open at absolutely the wrong times.
Plus, they have some experience with this situation before.
“We had a heartbreaker Game 1 of last series,” Curry said, referring to the last-second layup by Denver guard Andre Miller in the first round. “So we’ve been here before. Obviously, you don’t want to experience that again. But we know how to come back. We’ve been a resilient team all year. We know how to turn it back on.”
The Warriors were in great position to win it in regulation. They had all the momentum after another ridiculous third quarter by Curry: 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting with three assists, reminiscent of his Game 4 performance against the Nuggets.
He scored 14 points during a three-minute stretch, including his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter with 35.7 seconds left, putting the Warriors up 90-72. Golden State led 92-80 entering the fourth quarter.
But the game changed drastically when guard Klay Thompson, who had 19 points and had held Spurs All-Star guard Tony Parker to 4-of-15 shooting, fouled out at the 3:57 mark. Parker, who finished with 28, immediately took over the game.
He drove the lane four straight times, leading to two free throws, two layups and a layup by Kawhi Leonard. The 8-0 Spurs run cut the Warriors’ advantage 104-96 with 2:42 left.
Golden State went four minutes without scoring, more than five minutes without a field goal. Meanwhile, the Spurs just chipped away and with 59.8 seconds left, the Warriors’ lead was down to 104-103.
Jarrett Jack finally ended the drought by drilling a pull-up jumper with 29 seconds left. But Spurs guard Danny Green tied the game with an open 3-pointer from the right wing, sending the game into overtime.
Golden State took quick control with a jumper by Jack and a 3-pointer from Barnes, who had 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting. The Spurs answered with a 7-0 run to take a 113-111 lead.
Jack tied the game at 115 on a pull-up jumper with 20.3 seconds left. Warriors rookie forward Draymond Green forced a second overtime by coaxing Ginobili into missing a 20-footer at the buzzer.
In the second overtime, Danny Green struck again, drilling his sixth 3-pointer to put the Warriors down five with 1:06 left. But Curry, who played all but four seconds, scored four straight, including a finger roll with 32.8 seconds left. After the Warriors got their third straight stop, Curry hit rookie Kent Bazemore for a reverse layup in transition. Just like that, Golden State was up 127-126 with 3.9 seconds left — one stop away from victory.
As was the case in Game 1 against Denver, they couldn’t get it. After another defensive breakdown, Ginobili was open for 3. Ballgame.
“We put up a very valiant effort,” Jack said. “No matter if you lose by 20 or one, it’s still one game.”