Golden State’s Stephen Curry fires a pass around San Antonio’s Tony Parker during Sunday’s game, which the Warriors won in OT.
OAKLAND, Calif. — It’s been six years since the Golden State Warriors made the NBA playoffs. A lot has changed since then.
For one thing, the Warriors now play defense.
Trailing most of the way, the Warriors held the San Antonio Spurs to one field goal in the final 3:44 of regulation and just one more in the five-minute overtime, rallying to a 97-87 victory that evened the best-of-seven, Western Conference semifinal series 2-2 Sunday afternoon.
The series returns to San Antonio for Game 5 on Tuesday, with a Game 6 set for Thursday in Oakland. The teams split games at both sites.
“I’ve been talking about this group all year long,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson gushed after the series’ second overtime game. “I’m just so glad that a national TV audience had an opportunity to see exactly what’s been taking place in this area.”
The 53 minutes encapsulated the Warriors’ season, one in which improved defense, recurring injuries, impressive rookies and key newcomers have meshed into just the club’s second venture into the NBA postseason in 19 years.
One of those newcomers, veteran guard Jarrett Jack, got the one-sided overtime rolling with a driving hoop. But it was the Golden State defense that secured the series-tying win in the 13-3 extra session.
The Spurs missed their first six shots and two free throws of the five-minute overtime period, falling nine down before Danny Green nailed a 3-pointer with 1:29 remaining.
But the West’s second seed, up by as many as 11 early in the game, never connected again, finishing the overtime 1-for-10 to cap a 35.5-percent outing.
“We didn’t make shots,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich summed up. “I think we got caught up in a few too many 3’s. Twenty-seven is too many for us.”
The Spurs missed 20 of the 27, with one in particular being the most costly.
After Klay Thompson’s driving banker got the Warriors even at 84-all with 30.0 seconds remaining in regulation, Manu Ginobili found himself wide open behind the 3-point line as his defender fell down. But he missed the potential game-winning shot from the left side, and 16 seconds later, the teams were headed to overtime.
“That could have been the game,” admitted Ginobili, who to that point had made five of his seven 3-point attempts. “It’s hard to swallow because that could have been 3-1 (in the series) and in a good situation. But sometimes they don’t fall.”
In a game where Stephen Curry, playing on a sprained left ankle suffered late in Friday’s Game 3, clearly wasn’t his usual self, and backcourt mate Klay Thompson shot just 5-for-13, Warriors rookie Harrison Barnes saved the day offensively. His elbow jumper with 2:22 remaining in overtime opened a six-point advantage, and his season-best 26 points, which led the team, were critical.
“He carried us for most of the game. We kind of followed his lead,” Jack said of Barnes. “I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Jack, whose 16-footer with 58.5 seconds left in regulation completed a rally from an eight-point, fourth-quarter deficit and forged an 82-all tie, backed Barnes with 24 points. Curry, able to tough out 38 1/2 minutes, finished with 22, hitting five of his 10 3-point attempts.
Andrew Bogut, in foul trouble most of the game, contributed to the win with 18 rebounds and stellar defense on Spurs star Tim Duncan.
“Just a big-time win,” the Warriors’ Jackson assured. “This is a heck of a series.”
Ginobili’s 21-point effort off the bench led the Spurs. Duncan, harassed into 7-for-22 shooting, posted 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Spurs, and Tony Parker added 17 points.
“We both played great defense,” observed Ginobili. “In overtime, we just stopped scoring.”
The Warriors outshot the Spurs 38.0 percent to 35.5 and outrebounded them 65-51. San Antonio hurt itself with 11 missed free throws in 25 attempts.
The overtime drought was just an extension of the end of regulation play for the Spurs, who scored only two points in the final 3:44 of the fourth quarter. At the same time, the Warriors closed with an 8-2 run to erase an 82-76 deficit and force overtime.
The Spurs’ biggest lead of the final period was a product of a 6-0 run to open the quarter. Kawhi Leonard had two interior hoops as San Antonio went up eight, 68-60.
NOTES: Asked why he didn’t play Curry less when he was clearly struggling, the Warriors’ Jackson responded, “I thought he was giving us enough.” … The Warriors are now 6-1 in the playoffs when Curry scores 20 or more, 0-3 when he doesn’t. … The three overtime points were an all-time low for a Warriors playoff opponent. … Before the game, both coaches discussed the psychological impact of the Spurs taking a 2-1 lead in the series Friday night. … The Spurs’ Popovich made sure he reminded his guys Saturday: The last time they beat the Warriors, they laid an egg two days later. “We spend more time talking about how to handle wins than handling losses,” he insisted. “When a team wins, there’s always that level of satisfaction that you have to try and take away. Without hurting confidence, you have to try and get the message across that nothing has been accomplished yet. We won Game 1 and went down by 20 in Game 2, so we didn’t handle that win very well. We’re hoping that we’ll handle our win in Game 3 a little better.” … Warriors coach Jackson’s message to his team? Don’t believe what you hear. “It’s funny to me,” he said. “I told the guys (Saturday): ‘You go from being the greatest ever, off the charts and pencil us in to we’re not good, guys are erratic and guys are young.’ That’s playoff basketball. You go from wanting to watch every single sports show and reading all the articles to shutting the TV off, not buying the papers and no Internet. The great ones don’t pay attention to it.”