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NBA playoffs: Bulls, Spurs win opening games in conference semifinals

Monday night, Chicago defeated the Miami Heat. San Antonio needed two overtimes to best the Golden State Warriors in their respective Eastern and Western Conference semifinal opening games.

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San Antonio Wins a Thriller Over Golden State

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It seems an annual ritual – the coast teams get most of the glamour and the media attention, and the San Antonio Spurs, situated firmly in the middle of the country among the jackrabbits and tumbleweeds, just keep on winning. Monday night at the AT&T Center, the Spurs, led by their own ageless big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, defeated the no-less-impressive Golden State Warriors, 129-127, in double overtime in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

This game was a scoring bonanza, with six Spurs scoring in double-digits – including four of their starters. Ginobili, along with Gary Neal, came off the bench to add a combined 26 points – with Ginobili hitting the game-winning three-pointer with 3.9 seconds remaining in the second overtime. In a remarkable fourth-quarter turnaround, San Antonio, who was down 16 points with just four minutes remaining, went on an 18-2 offensive run to tie the score at 106 at the end of regulation. Tony Parker led all Spurs with 28 points, followed by former North Carolina star Danny Green’s 22 and former San Diego State Aztec Kawhi Leonard’s 18.

The Spurs scoring assault was just too much for Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who turned in the performance of his career, scoring 44 points (22 of them in the third quarter) and adding 11 assists. Though they out-rebounded the Spurs 55-45, the Warriors also committed 21 turnovers. Golden State also hurt themselves on the free throw line, hitting only 58% (14-24) against San Antonio’s 85% (24-28). Fundamentals mean everything in playoff competition, and the Spurs in this instance were just more solid all-around.

Ginobili, who tallied 16 points for the game, has always been a “gunslinger” of sorts at crunch time for the Spurs, to the occasional exasperation of head coach Gregg Popovich. Afterward, Popovich said “I went from wanting to trade him on the spot to wanting to cook breakfast for him tomorrow morning. That’s the truth. When I talk to him and say, ‘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.”

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