Bro Jackson assistant editor Blake Hurtik attended the Spurs-Warriors second-round playoff game Monday for his job at the San Antonio Express-News. He wasn’t planning on writing anything. Then the game happened. Now, he’s obligated to write something. Here’s that something.
SAN ANTONIO — Andrew Bogut sat in front of his corner locker, both hands covering his stunned face. Other Warriors drooped with eyes buried in their iPhones. Stephen Curry, Golden State’s golden point guard who had played all but four seconds of a double-overtime, gut-punching, nut-kicking, heart-breaking loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, slouched with his feet in a tub of ice water, his left hand in some sort of futuristic, hyperbaric chamber-like device, which I can only assume is used to replenish the magic that allowed him to score 44 points on 18-of-35 shooting.
The Warriors said all the right things after coming out on the wrong end of a 129-127 thriller at the AT&T Center. “It’s just one game,” sixth man Jarrett Jack said. “We just have to get better at closing out games,” said guard Harrison Barnes.
But, man, how completely things changed for the Warriors in the span of five minutes. Golden State, which HAS LOST 30 STRAIGHT GAMES IN SAN ANTONIO DATING BACK TO 1997, could do no wrong through three and a half quarters. Progressive moms in the Bay Area were already planning on naming their adopted foreign babies “Steph,” the perfect gender neutral name, after his third-quarter onslaught. The dude flat out took over. Golden State built up an 18-point lead, and led by 16 with 4:31 left. A good chunk of a raucous San Antonio crowd filed out, so much so that The Screaming Lady was about the only thing viewers could hear — before they gouged their ears out.
But Warriors coach Mark Jackson refused to give his star a breather, inserted brick machine Richard Jefferson into the game much to Spurs fans’ delight, and Klay Thompson fouled out. TNT broadcaster Chris Webber wasn’t concerned, literally saying that the Warriors didn’t need him.
Boy was he wrong.
The Warriors sputtered and the Spurs rallied with an incredible late run driven by the red-hot Danny Green (6 for 9 on 3-pointers) to force OT. And then another OT.
Still, the stars aligned for the Warriors in the second OT thanks to the ultimate Manu Moment with 44 seconds left. The Spurs’ frustratingly talented Argentinian let off a 25-footer with a hand in his face and lot of shot clock to burn that clanged off the rim.
Moments later, Golden State rookie Kent Bazemore slipped in his first career playoff basket with three seconds left to give the Warriors a one-point lead. Then Manu Ginobili did what Manu Ginobili does, swishing a 3-pointer to win it with a second left.
Bazemore went from being an instant playoff legend to standing in a locker room full of media and having just one reporter wander over to ask questions. And Manu went from being a goat to the GOAT — at least in the Alamo City.
It’s hard to imagine the Warriors rebounding from this. Curry looked completely gassed in the overtimes, which forced Golden State to rely on Jack and others to create. Sure the Spurs are old, but they are disciplined and even-keeled. As believable as it is to see the young Warriors to blow that lead, it was equally as realistic to see to Spurs coming back. You just can’t rattle a veteran team like that.
After the game, I asked Mike Monroe, the Spurs beat writer for the Express-News, where this game ranked on his personal list of all-timers. Mike has covered the NBA for 30 years. He put it on par with Robert Horry‘s game-winning 3 in Detroit during the 2005 Finals.
I was at the game as backup for the Express-News, ready to fetch whatever quote our reporters needed on an insanely tight deadline due to TNT’s late tips and the newspaper’s rigid printing schedule. I didn’t even leave the press room the entire game, instead watching it on a TV with other battle-hardened sports writers. During the back and forth, even the crotchety-est of scribes was smiling or jaw-dropping after another clutch shot between bitching about blown deadlines.
This game was what makes sports great. I can only imagine how those people who left early to beat the traffic feel, or how they’ll lie to their coworkers about having missed an instant classic. Games like this are why you pay money in the first place.