It was a classic Spurs win, with defense, execution and mental toughness carrying the day in a game where their offense threatened to abandon them yet again. They found just enough late, with Tony Parker — who had struggled all night to that point — hitting two huge 3-pointers and Kawhi Leonard adding a third in little more than two minutes after the Warriors cut what had been a 13-point lead to two.

And so the Spurs — or the Popovich’s, as Metta World Peace referred to them on Twitter while lauding the aforementioned qualities — advanced to the Western Conference finals for the eighth time in the Duncan/Pop era. Added bonus: An opportunity to avenge their ouster as the No. 1 seed by Memphis in the first round of the 2011 playoffs. The series begins Sunday in San Antonio.

Player of the game

Between his defense, hustle, timely shooting and all-around effort, Leonard’s fingerprints were all over the Spurs’ close-out victory. He led all players with 10 rebounds as the Spurs won the battle of the boards by six. He scored 16 points, including his critical 3 to double the Spurs’ lead to six down the stretch. He did his customary lockdown job on Klay Thompson, holding him to 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting while picking off two steals.

The turning point

Not many coaches would bench an uninjured All-Star for the key possessions of a playoff game. Not many coaches are Gregg Popovich, whose decision to bench Tim Duncan over the final 4:28 turned out to be a masterstroke. With Tiago Splitter manning the middle around a small lineup of Leonard, Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green, the Spurs outscored Golden State 12-6 over the next three minutes after the Warriors whittled the deficit 77-75. (Boris Diaw then came in for Splitter.)

True to form, Duncan had no problem with the decision, citing Popovich’s track record over the “years and years and years” the two have been together.