Gregg Popovich was yelling something. Of this, Tiago Splitter was certain. The Spurs coach was also stomping down the sideline, gesticulating wildly in his starting center’s direction. Splitter couldn’t see him. All Splitter could do, late in the Spurs’ defense-dominated 76-74 victory over Golden State on Friday, was concentrate on the task at hand. He was 30 feet from the basket, accidentally guarding the NBA’s hottest perimeter shooter, looking no more comfortable than if someone had crammed his 6-foot-11 Brazilian body into the backseat of a Fiat. “I was hearing something from Pop,” Splitter said of the unfortunate switch that left him defending Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “I didn’t know what he was saying. I didn’t know if I had to foul. So I just tried to make a good play.” Splitter isn’t sure he accomplished that. But he was sure of one thing. “I was lucky he missed the shot,” Splitter said. So were the Spurs. When Thompson who was shooting 55.7 percent from 3-point range before Friday — clanged a go-ahead attempt from distance with 1:23 left, it summed up the game. The Spurs won a rematch of last season’s thrilling Western Conference semifinals with a game thrilling only to fans of defense. Like Popovich. “I thought the defense was some of the better defense we played all year,” Popovich said. “We certainly couldn’t put it in the basket, so the defense was really important for us.” Tony Parker led the Spurs with 18 points, but went 4 of 10 from the foul line. He missed his final three free throws, including a pair with 16.4 seconds left that could have saved the Spurs from having to survive a frantic Warriors’ final possession. Andre Iguodala missed on a driving 9-footer as time expired to preserve the win for the Spurs (5-1). The Spurs won despite shooting 39.2 percent, and despite missing 9 of 18 free throws. Neither team scored a field goal after Parker’s 15-footer with 3:13 to go. “The truth is if you had told me it was going to finish 76-74,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said, “I would have said, ‘No way.’ ” A replay of the 129-127 double-OT thriller the Spurs won to open last season’s playoff series it was not. The teams could have played another pair of overtimes Friday at the AT&T Center and the score might still have ended 76-74. The Spurs’ defensive effort was commendable, even with the Warriors playing without star guard Stephen Curry, who was out with a left ankle injury. Thompson, who came in averaging 24 points, managed only 11 of 5 of 16 shooting without his fellow “Splash Brother.” Only backup guard Toney Douglas really got loose for the Warriors, hitting 5 of 9 3-pointers for 21 points.
Beautiful defense offsets ugly offense in Spurs 76-74 win over Warriors
San Antonio Express-News | Nov 9