It was a strange night in the 2013 NBA Playoffs on Thursday. The Indiana Pacers played without George Hill (concussion) and looked incompetent on offense for most of the evening, as Carmelo Anthony carried the New York Knicks to an ugly Game 5 win. Gregg Popovich benched Tim Duncan down the stretch, but the San Antonio Spurs still knocked off the Golden State Warriors and advanced to the Western Conference Finals to face the Memphis Grizzlies. Here's a rundown of the action from Thursday night.
Spurs 94, Warriors 82 | San Antonio clinched series, 4-2
The Warriors and Spurs alternated wins in the series for the first five games, but the Spurs finally broke the trend in Game 6 and eliminated Golden State. San Antonio did a solid job of managing the pro-Warriors crowd at ORACLE Arena at the outset of the game. The Spurs outscored Golden State in each of the first two quarters and limited Stephen Curry (22 points for the game) and Klay Thompson (10 points) to a combined 8-for-20 shooting in the first half.
Tim Duncan started the game strong and scored 13 of his 19 points in the opening 24 minutes, even though Popovich elected to bench him in the final period due to defensive matchups. Harrison Barnes helped to keep the Warriors afloat in the first half as he scored eight of his nine points in 18 first-half minutes. He was never quite the same after taking this brutal fall in the second period:
Barnes returned and played the entire third quarter, but he was eventually taken out of the game after suffering from a headache. A team spokesman confirmed after the game that Barnes underwent concussion tests at halftime and was cleared to return to the game.
Nothing was easy for the Spurs in this series, so of course Golden State made a few runs in the second half. In fact, the Warriors started attacking Duncan in pick-and-roll situations, and Popovich was forced to play his star big man fewer han five minutes in the fourth period of a tight game. The comeback attempts from the Warriors were always met with a solid response, as noted in the Pounding the Rock recap:
With ten minutes to go on the fourth, the Warriors cut the lead to three with a Thompson three pointer and the momentum seemed to be swinging. But Splitter found Ginobili on a backdoor cut for an easy two when the team needed a bucket the most. Lee futilely tried to take over but kept firing blanks, and the Spurs started hitting jumpers as if they were the game one Warriors, while getting lucky bounces on their own rim. Nothing was easy in this series, so of course the Warriors cut the deficit to two once again with 4:52 to go. But Parker's shot picked the perfect moment to wake up, and with a three pointer from the right corner built a five point cushion. With Ginobili dishing the ball and Parker and Leonard hitting shots, it was evident the Spurs were going to prevail, and after both coaches emptied their benches in the final minute, they did.
Popovich elected to go small and use Tiago Splitter as the team's only big man for most of the fourth quarter. Tony Parker made the decision pay off, as he scored 10 points in the final stanza and shot 2-of-5 from the field to salvage an otherwise rough night (13 points, 3-of-16 shooting).
Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Spurs and Grizzlies is set for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in San Antonio.
Knicks 85, Pacers 75 | Indiana leads series, 3-2
Pacers point guard George Hill complained of a headache and failed concussion testing prior to Game 6, so Indiana was forced to roll with D.J. Augustin. Seth Rosenthal of Knicks blog Posting and Toasting summed up the effect of that move nicely in his game recap:
Just an hour or two before game time, the Pacers revealed that George Hill had suffered a concussion in Game 4 and would not be available. His absence registered on both ends of the floor, with the rest of the Pacers collapsing into the void. The stubbier, far less menacing D.J. Augustin was left to guard the top of New York's pick-and-rolls, which resulted in far more breakdowns and far more Pacer teammates stranded out of position. Augustin and a gaggle of other under-qualified Pacers were asked to handle the ball, making them extra discombobulated and more susceptible to turnovers. Paul George torched the Knicks as the ball-handler on plenty of possessions, but also made his share of errors in that role. Sam Young played more than usual, too. That's always good. So, yeah, a relatively shallow opponent being down one of their most troublesome players helped the Knicks a bunch.
Carmelo Anthony carried the Knicks offense and scored a game-high 28 points in 12-of-28 shooting, while Chris Copeland gave the Knicks a big boost off the bench with a very efficient night (13 points, 3-of-4 on threes). It wasn't a great game by New York, but Indiana did everything they could to help the Knicks extend the series.
The Pacers couldn't buy a bucket for most of the contest. They shot 36.2 percent from the field, committed 19 turnovers and received just 10 points from the bench players. The starting backcourt of Augustin and Lance Stephenson combined for 16 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Paul George (23 points) and David West (17 points) led the way for Indiana, but they needed 35 field goal attempts to pot 40 points. When Indiana did manage to get some easy chances at the free throw line, they squandered those opportunities and hit just 57.6 percent (19-of-33) of their freebies.
Game 6 in Indiana is scheduled for Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET.