SPURS’ GI­NO­BILI’S IN­CRED­I­BLE BLOCK

His hero­ics in over­time deny Rock­ets vic­tory

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MANU Gi­no­bili pulled off an as­ton­ish­ing last-gasp de­fen­sive block as the San An­to­nio Spurs dug deep to claim a 110-107 vic­tory over the Hous­ton Rock­ets in their Western Con­fer­ence play­off se­ries on Tues­day.

Kawhi Leonard — who limped off late in the game with an an­kle in­jury — top­scored for San An­to­nio with 22 points as the Spurs took a 3-2 lead in their best of seven se­ries.

But it was Gi­no­bili’s hero­ics in over­time — ath­let­i­cally deny­ing James Harden as the Rock­ets star shaped for a game-ty­ing three-pointer — that stole the show at San An­to­nio’s AT&T Cen­ter.

It was a su­perb clutch de­fen­sive play from the 39-year-old Ar­gen­tinian, which gives the Spurs a pre­cious lead as the se­ries heads to Hous­ton for Game Six to­day.

“Manu reached back and gave us one of his Manu per­for­mances from past years. He was a stud,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

“We went to him with Kawhi off the court and asked him to make some things hap­pen, gen­er­ate some of­fence. He did a good job, whether dis­tribut­ing or scor­ing — he was big for us,” added Popovich, prais­ing his team’s de­fen­sive re­silience af­ter the loss of Leonard in a tense fi­nale.

“Ev­ery­body pulled to­gether and played some good de­fence, es­pe­cially with­out Kawhi be­ing out there. The com­pet­i­tive­ness was just off the charts.

“We’re ob­vi­ously thrilled with the vic­tory. We would have re­ally been in a hole. Ei­ther team could have won the game down the stretch.”

But it was a frus­trat­ing night for Harden, who led the scor­ing for the Rock­ets with 33 points and a triple-dou­ble but was un­able to pro­vide his team with the break­through in over­time.

Harden made only four of 15 at­tempted three-point­ers and cru­cially coughed up nine turnovers — in­clud­ing three in over­time.

Three other play­ers made dou­ble fig­ures for the Rock­ets with Pa­trick Bev­er­ley fin­ish­ing with 20 points, Ryan An­der­son 19 points and Eric Gor­don with 11.

San An­to­nio’s scor­ing was spread through­out the team, with LaMar­cus Aldridge adding 18, Danny Green 16 and Patty Mills 20.

Jon­athan Sim­mons (12) and Gi­no­bili (12) also notched dou­ble dig­its.

San An­to­nio mean­while played the fi­nal min­utes of reg­u­la­tion and the over­time pe­riod with­out Leonard, who ap­peared to twist his left an­kle dur­ing a drive in the third quar­ter.

Popovich de­clined to spec­u­late on the se­ri­ous­ness of Leonard’s in­jury.

“He didn’t want to come out ob­vi­ously, we let him a play on a lit­tle bit just to see how it went. But it was ob­vi­ous he couldn’t go,” Popovich said.

Hous­ton looked to have edged clear when Ryan An­der­son’s three-pointer put them ahead with 47.6 sec­onds on the clock.

Danny Green then drew a foul at­tempt­ing a lay-up to give San An­to­nio a 109-107 buf­fer, with a fur­ther

We’re ob­vi­ously thrilled with the vic­tory. We would have re­ally been in a hole. Ei­ther team could have won the game down the stretch.

GREGG POPOVICH

Spurs coach

free throw mak­ing it 110-107.

The win­ners of the se­ries will play the Golden State War­riors for a place in the NBA Fi­nals.

Golden State reached the Western Con­fer­ence fi­nals af­ter com­plet­ing a 4-0 sweep of the Utah Jazz on Mon­day.

RE­SULT — 2nd round play­offs (best of seven se­ries): San An­to­nio 110 Hous­ton 107 (San An­to­nio lead 3-2). AFP

AFP PIC

Spurs’ Manu Gi­no­bili (left) makes the block against the three-point at­tempt by Rock­ets’ James Harden on Tues­day.

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