Big 3 sit, but Spurs still top Warriors
Updated On: Dec 20 2013 02:29:33 AM CST
On a night that began with him having to defend his decision to sit out his top three players, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich could think of only four words to say after his team's stunning 104-102 victory over the Golden State Warriors.
"Helluva win. Helluva win."
In a nationally televised contest that was equally exciting as it was improbable, center Tiago Splitter tipped in power forward Boris Diaw's miss with 2.1 seconds remaining, giving the Spurs, who were playing without guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and forward Tim Duncan, a remarkable win Thursday night.
"I was just lucky to be there at the special moment," said Splitter, who began a critical rebounding sequence following a Marco Belinelli miss by knocking Warriors center Andrew Bogut to the floor. "It was just a loose ball there, and I went for it."
The dramatic win capped a 6-1 stretch in which the Spurs played six road games and one home game in a 10-day period. The sequence included three back-to-backs, including one that began with a 108-101 win over the Suns in Phoenix on Wednesday night.
Parker sat out Wednesday and Thursday after suffering a bruised shin in Monday's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Duncan and Ginobili were merely getting a rest Thursday.
"Seven (games) in 10 days, that's ridiculous," Popovich said before the game. "We're going to get home at 4:30 (a.m.) Let's see ... How smart do you have to be to rest a couple of guys that are older than dirt?"
As it turned out, the Spurs didn't need their Big Three thanks to a 41-13 scoring advantage from their depleted bench vs. the Warriors' reserves -- plus Splitter's heroics.
After Warriors point guard Stephen Curry tied the game at 102 with a 3-pointer with 28.7 seconds left, the Spurs (21-5) appeared to miss their opportunity for a regulation win when Belinelli, the team's leading scorer with a career-high 28 points, misfired from the left side.
However, Splitter won a battle with Bogut for the weakside rebound, deflecting it to Diaw as he was knocking Bogut to the floor.
Diaw couldn't convert from short range, but with Bogut still on the ground, Splitter reached over the rim for his game-winning tip-in.
"I'm not sure. I have to watch the tape," Bogut responded when asked what happened on the game-losing sequence under the San Antonio basket. "Tough play."
After nobody broke open on an inbounds play, Curry misfired badly on a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer, sending the Warriors to their third loss in the four games.
"Let's not get too carried away -- it's one game," Popovich said of the win. "I'm proud of them, obviously. They were fantastic. But what helped us was that the Warriors had a bad night. That's why you play the games. You never know what's going to happen."
Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard backed Belinelli with 21 points and a season-best 10 rebounds. Point guard Patty Mills, a product of nearby St. Mary's College who was starting in Parker's place, poured in a season-high 20 points.
"Belinelli was crazy and Patty Mills was crazy," Popovich said. "It was one of those nights for us."
Power forward David Lee had a season-high 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Warriors, while Curry matched his career high with 15 assists to go with 30 points. Bogut finished with a season-best 18 rebounds, and guard Klay Thompson contributed 13 points.
The Warriors (14-13) hit only eight of their 31 3-point shots (25.8 percent) and committed 24 turnovers, which the Spurs converted into 31 points.
"We were careless and that gave them life," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "It's tough to win ballgames that way. That's not what championship-caliber teams do."
The Spurs led 82-74 entering the final period, but an energetic defensive effort spearheaded by two Warriors reserves, guard Kent Bazemore and forward Draymond Green, helped vault Golden State into an 86-all tie in the fourth minute of the quarter. San Antonio had only one field goal in that stretch, missing five of six shots and committing four turnovers.
Neither team led by more than three after that.
The Spurs put themselves in a position to win by dominating stretches of the second and third quarters, during which a 14-point deficit turned into as many as a nine-point lead.
"I'm sure the Warriors have never played a worse third quarter," Popovich said. "If anything could have gone wrong for them, it did, and we were unbelievably fortunate. I'm not being generous; I'm just being truthful."
NOTES: Spurs PG Patty Mills recorded the sixth 20-point game of his NBA career. Four came against the Warriors. ... The Warriors turned the ball over 20 or more times for the eighth time this season, tops in the league. They are 3-5 in those games. ... San Antonio PG Tony Parker, PF Tim Duncan and SG Manu Ginobili also sat out the Spurs' 116-106 loss to the Warriors in Oakland late last season. The Spurs are 3-2 the past five times the trio didn't play. ... With Mills and C Aron Baynes making their first starts of the season, the game featured three Australian starters (including Warriors C Andrew Bogut), a first in NBA history. ... The game attracted the Warriors' 50th consecutive sellout to Oracle Arena, 19,596.