SAN ANTONIO – On the court of our dreams, they would still be out there playing. Shot for shot, pass for pass, the astonishing marvel of a relentless attack against a miracle comeback born of experience and stubbornness.
There were spin drives that swirled faster than the winds inside a funnel cloud and a clinching 3-pointer that came down wearing a touch of blue from scraping against the sky.
Bop till you drop. Last team standing advances to next round. If that were the case, they might keep on fighting this battle into July. Or even August.
This was billed as a Western Conference semifinal series that would bear watching, and for three hours and 12 minutes of Game 1 we were like cavemen mesmerized by their first glimpse of fire.
OK, so why not get carried away about the Spurs’ 129-127 double-overtime masterpiece over the Warriors? About the only things missing were a gold frame and a spot behind a velvet rope on the wall in the Louvre.
If Dr. Naismith’s game has been played better, it certainly wasn’t on this planet. The extraterrestrial Stephen Curry rang up another out of this world third quarter, hitting 9 of his 12 shots for 22 of his 44 points. The remarkably down-to-earth Danny Green matched Curry’s half-dozen from long range. And a zaftig Frenchman who hadn’t played in exactly one month — Boris Diaw – provided a certain je ne sais quoi.
The Spurs trailed by 16 with 4:31 left in the fourth quarter and forced overtime. The Warriors trailed by five with 1:06 left in the second OT and nearly stole off into the night with the win.
“It was a crazy game,” said the Spurs’ Tony Parker.
Never crazier and never swinging further from the ridiculous to the sublime than when Kawhi Leonard’s inbounds pass found a wide open Manu Ginobili, who launched a high-arching 26-footer that settled into the bottom of the net with 1.2 seconds left to end it all.
All of that on the night when Ginobili made just 5 of 20 shots from the field and just 44 seconds earlier had missed badly on a brain-lock 3 try from straight out.
“When I talk to him and Manu, he goes ‘This is what I do.’ That’s what he’s going to tell me. I stopped coaching him a long time ago.”
It was beautiful and bombastic, frantic and fragile, wild, woolly and wondrous … and certainly the best game of the season and maybe as good a playoff game as has been played in any season. It was Nureyev and Baryshnikov on the same stage, Picasso and Pollock on the same wall, Miles Davis and Leonard Bernstein making music together.
The sixth-seeded Warriors wear their underdog image as a suit of armor, fearless and invulnerable and even after losing their 30th consecutive game in San Antonio since 1997, have served notice that they no longer intend to be polite houseguests.
The second-seeded and ageless Spurs simply look at every game and every situation as something that can be handled, even if it’s like picking up a hot coal in their bare hands.
On one hand, the Spurs will have to devise a plan to stifle or at least slow down Curry, who has joined the Rolling Stones as the hottest act touring America this spring. They will also have to fret that if Klay Thompson hadn’t fouled out and Richard Jefferson hadn’t missed two free throws with 1:57 left, they might never have survived regulation time.
On the other, the Warriors probably have to figure that the Spurs won’t continue shooting 43.8 percent in the series and that Tim Duncan will be more of a force at both ends of the floor when he shakes off the effects of the flu that eventually forced him to the sidelines.
Jarrett Jack attacks, the Spurs answer. Curry thrusts and Parker parries.
“We’re excited about this series,” said Warriors coach Mark Jackson. “I saw a lot of good things during the course of the game tonight.”
The good news is there could be six more left. The bad news is there can only be six.