Playing their first game without injured Manu Ginobili, the San Antonio Spurs had to mount a furious fourth quarter rally to come from behind and defeat the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night, 101-95.
Ginobili, the Spurs leader this season in points and assists, broke a bone in his left hand in Monday’s game at Minnesota and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. His absence forced the Spurs to dig deep into their roster Wednesday against the pesky Warriors.
Although Golden State had not won in San Antonio since 1997, a string of 26 straight home victories for the Spurs over the West Coast team, the Warriors were more than a handful Wednesday, thanks to Monta Ellis and Steph Curry, who combined for 38 first-half points to blister the Spurs defense and carry the visitors to a 53-45 halftime lead.
The Spurs opened the game on a 6-0 run, but then found themselves in a shootout with Ellis and Curry and as a result, played catch-up ball through the first two quarters.
The third quarter was much the same, with the exception of a missing Curry for Golden State, who turned an ankle and missed the second half. It didn’t matter, however, as the Warriors played inspired and tenacious ball under new head coach Mark Jackson.
Although the Spurs briefly took a one-point lead early in the final stanza, the persistent Warriors regained the lead and held it until late, when the Spurs put together an 11-0 run to regain momentum and an 89-88 lead.
The run was highlighted by a Richard Jefferson three from the deep corner, followed by a teardrop floater in the lane from point guard Tony Parker.
It was the Parker show in the fourth quarter, as he willed his team to the win, scoring 13 of his 21 points in the final frame. He iced the victory with a pair of free throws with 13 seconds remaining.
While Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is notoriously famous for tinkering with his lineups as he searches for a perfect blend, Ginobili’s injury may have helped settle Pop’s tinkering desires a bit.
Almost by accident, the Spurs found themselves with two point guards in the game during the decisive fourth quarter. T.J. Ford, the former University of Texas standout, filled in admirably during Parker’s customary early fourth quarter rest, and by the time Parker returned, Ford had been finding open teammates with an assortment of assists including lobs to the big men inside.
As such, the coaches went with the two point guard system for the first time this season and it paid dividends, as the Spurs outscored the Warriors 31-20 in the fourth. Parker and Ford combined for 16 of the team’s 23 assists in the game.
While Ginobili’s void for the next two months will no doubt hurt the Spurs playoff chances, Wednesday’s performance by the Spurs showed they still have the ability to usher in the new.
Tim Duncan, the always-there guy in the middle, finished the game with a double-double, scoring 15 points and adding 11 rebounds. His strong defensive presence was another vital part of the fourth quarter rally, as he grabbed six of those rebounds and rejected several Warriors shots during the stretch run.
The victory is short-lived, as the Spurs play the second of a back-to-back on Thursday against the reining champions, the Dallas Mavericks.
And anxiously await results on Manobili’s surgery, scheduled for Thursday in San Antonio.