Posted on May 10, 2017, by Travis Pulver
The Houston Rockets had it. They had the perfect opportunity to secure a big win over the Spurs in San Antonio—and they blew it. With Kawhi Leonard on the bench with an injury for much of the fourth quarter and all of overtime, the conditions were perfect for Houston to bring home the W—but they couldn’t get it done.
Why not? Well—when you stop making shots, and Manu Ginobili discovers the Fountain of Youth it becomes kind of hard to win.
The game was a welcome change from the rest of the NBA playoffs—it was actually competitive. San Antonio got out to an early 32-29 lead after the first quarter. But in the second quarter, they found themselves fighting a losing battle. While they were making baskets (two-pointers), the Rockets were making threes. So, by the time halftime rolled around it was Houston in front, 60-58.
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The Rockets three-point shot cooled off after halftime, but the Spurs found themselves faced with an even bigger problem—an injury to Kawhi Leonard. When the forward turned to run up court (around the 5:37 mark), he stepped on James Harden’s foot and turned his left ankle pretty bad.
“It was frustrating because I wanted to play,” Leonard said after the game. “But I was happy seeing my teammates out there putting in a good effort and getting the win.”
He ended up playing in the fourth quarter, but was clearly bothered by it and held out during the overtime period. Leonard insists he is going to play in Game Six, but Popovich has yet to confirm that he will indeed play.
“He’s had issues, and you could tell just before he took a couple of shots he jumped off one foot,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said (ESPN). “He didn’t want to come out, obviously. We let him play a little while just to see what he was going to be like, but it was obvious that he couldn’t go…”
Even with Leonard hobbled, the Spurs were able to pull ahead by one entering the fourth quarter. Patty Mills had a chance to win it for the Spurs at the buzzer, but his shot banked in after it already sounded.
Neither team scored much in overtime (9-6, Spurs); Patrick Beverly made the first, a 25-foot three-pointer, with two minutes to play. For a brief moment, it appeared like fans were in for the first double overtime game of the postseason. With San Antonio holding on to an 110-107 lead, James Harden tried to put up a game-tying three-pointer.
But Manu Ginobili blocked his first shot in over a year. It was also the first time he has ever blocked one of James Harden’s shots. Harden only had 12 of his 847 three-point attempts blocked all season.
It was just the fourth time in his long career that he blocked a potential game-winning/tying shot. His other three victims—Kevin Love, Kobe Bryant, and Ray Allen.
Many have tried to put the blame on Harden for the loss. He was only 1-6 for four points (0-5 from three-point range), one assist, and four turnovers. Some have tried to say running the offense and playing defense on Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge (the two were 15-42 from the floor) took its toll; he got tired and sloppy.
He doesn’t see it that way even though he played 43 minutes.
“I just missed shots,” Harden said.
He’ll need to make them in Game Six Thursday night at 8 PM ET on ESPN if the Rockets are going to keep their postseason dreams alive.