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Golden: The bank was open for Aldridge in playoff eliminator


San Antonio Spurs was pay-phone dead and it wasn’t universally believed that this Kawhi-less, Pop-less group would avoid the broom against the defending world champions Sunday.

Credit the Spurs for not phoning it in against less than favorable odds.

San Antonio 103, Golden State 90.

The Spurs are going back to Cali, for Game 5.

LL Cool J would agree the Golden State Warriors missed out on a great opportunity to ‘knock out’ the Spurs, but I guess they weren’t listening to Mama when she ordered the closeout.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Manu Ginobili were the heartbeat and Rudy Gay was the guts for the Spurs, who probably played their last game of a turbulent season at the AT&T Center.

No team has ever won a best-of-seven series after falling behind 3-0 but the Spurs gave a sellout crowd of 18, 418 plenty of faith by answering every run the Warriors made down the stretch. After Golden State pulled to 88-86 on Kevin Durant’s three-pointer with just under six minutes remaining , there had to be the belief that the best team would find a way to pull it out and end San Antonio’s season.

Then Aldridge beat the buzzer and great defense by Draymond Green with a three-pointer off the glass from the top of the key.

Stay of execution granted.

Of course the Texas ex was asked if he called that sweet kiss off the glass.

“Yeah, I called it earlier this morning,” he said. “When I woke up, I said, ‘I’m going to make a bank three.’”

Aldridge’s dream shot was a nightmare to the guys on the other bench because it came at a time when the Warriors had started playing like the Warriors.

“At times, especially in the second half when we made a push to cut it to two, we were really running the offense well,” said Warriors’ sharpshooter Klay Thompson, who made only 4-for-16 field goal attempts. “Then LaMarcus hit that dagger. A bank from the top of the key doesn’t help.”

Aldridge made only 11 three-pointers in 63 career playoff games. He made three Sunday and the biggest brought to mind that night in 2008 when Tim Duncan’s last-second triple forced a second overtime and an eventual win over Phoenix. Duncan had attempted only four three-pointers in the regular season. His first postseason trey spurred a postseason run to the Western Conference finals.

This will probably go down as the last win for the 2018 Spurs but that isn’t the point of this discussion. San Antonio’s fight for survival was a lesson in grit and determination regardless of the obstacles one is facing. Aldridge is a prime example. He had one of the worst seasons of his career in Year 2 in the Alamo City and asked coach Gregg Popovich to trade him before the season.

Pop said it was the first time in his 20 years as head coach that he had received a trade demand. Over a few dinners, the two hashed it out and had some laughs. Pop offered to drive Aldridge to the airport if he could engineer a trade for Kevin Durant.

KD wasn’t available. LA stayed and became team’s most consistent player in a year that fellow all-star Kawhi Leonard played only nine games.

“I think he’s had one of his best years in his career,” said teammate Pau Gasol. “Now he’s in a position of leadership among other great players. So I think he’s done great and it speaks highly of him and his desire and his mindset going into the season. And with all the adversity we’ve had this year, I’m proud of him.”

It doesn’t matter how many veterans of title seasons the Spurs have if their stars don’t show up. Aldridge brought it once again with 22 points, 10 rebounds while Ginobili, possibly playing his last home game in San Antonio, scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter.

The offensively challenged Spurs came to life from distance with 15 three-pointers, but it started and ended with Aldridge who has put up solid numbers while facing constant double teams from one of the best defensive teams in the game.

“Sometimes the ball goes in,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who made a couple of three-pointers in his day. “Aldridge banked one in from three. Tonight was their night from three. We’ve got to be better covering the line next game.”

Even when Aldridge sat, his teammates were able to keep their noses in front. It could have been easy to lie down and accept their first-round fate but the Spurs aren’t built that way.

“It was a do or die game,” he said. “Either make it happen or go home. I thought every guy played with that mentality and that focus and we were able to get it done tonight.”

As the venue shifts to the Oracle Arena, the Spurs are heading West with a nothing-to-lose mentality. The inevitable is just that but Aldridge’s crew just beat the Golden State Warriors. Belief can take a team to special places. We know now the Spurs are not lacking in that area.



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