Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals was a huge game for the Spurs and the Warriors. If the Spurs won, they would have to win the next three consecutive games to advance to the Finals. If the Warriors won, they would end the series with a sweep – and that’s exactly what they did. Golden State became the first team in NBA history to enter the finals undefeated 12-0. They will be playing in the Finals for the third consecutive season. Let’s take a look at how last night went down:
Game 4 was a sellout at the AT&T Center with 18,466 Spurs fans filling the arena. Gregg Popovich decided to start Manu Ginobili “out of respect.” This was his first time starting in over 3 years. Joining the starting lineup was Patty Mills, Danny Green, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Jonathon Simmons. With 3 players out with injuries, the Spurs still put up a fight taking on a team with 4 All-Stars.
San Antonio’s only lead came on the opening possession when Manu Ginobili tossed in a left-handed scoop shot. Golden State’s incredible defense has been their key to dominating the playoffs. They also have incredible shooters on their roster. The Warriors shot 56 percent and were 14 for 39 on 3-pointers. If only the Spurs’ top scorer, Kawhi Leonard, could’ve played – the Spurs would’ve probably made a huge comeback.
The most memorable play of the game was when Kyle Anderson dove on the court for a loose ball that the Spurs had tipped away defensively and pushed the ball upcourt to Mills. Mills got control of the ball and tossed it to Ginobili for a 3-pointer that pulled San Antonio to 108-94 with 7 minutes remaining.
Anderson led the Spurs with 20 points. Golden State was led by Steph Curry (as if that’s any surprise) with 39 points. Speaking of 39, 39-year-old Manu Ginobili had 15 points, 1 rebound, 7 assists, and 3 steals in 32 minutes.
The Warriors led by as many as 22 points to defeat the Spurs in San Antonio, 129-115. Now, Golden State is headed to the NBA Finals to play either the Celtics or the Cavs.
On the morning of Game 4 at the AT&T Center, Golden State’s Kevin Durant was sitting next to the court and popped a fistful of vitamins. Durant said he was “just trying to last like Manu.”
Manu Ginobili hasn’t announced if he is going to retire yet, but he has been dropping hints of possible retirement. He said he won’t make his decision until the offseason. Last night could’ve been his last game with the Spurs. Regardless, Spurs fans turned the loss into what seemed like a retirement party.
When Ginobili took the bench with 2:54 remaining in the fourth quarter, almost every player on the court was clapping for him. Even back-to-back MVP Steph Curry waiting to take his free throw shot as Manu headed to the bench, and clapped along with everyone else. The fans chanted “Manu, Manu,” and then rang out homage to his Argentinian roots with “Ole, ole, ole, ole…” Even Coach Pop began to smile and asked him if he wanted to go back out and play. Finally, they chanted “Let’s go Manu.” When Ginobili left the court and walked through the tunnel to the locker room, he kissed his fist and pointed towards the sky.
Ginobili said it was hard to describe what those final minutes felt like.
“It was kind of emotional and overwhelming. I don’t have a lot of words to describe it, but of course it makes me feel really well – feeling that type of appreciation, love, respect — it’s something that we all can appreciate.”
Ginobili said he is faced with a hard decision, but there are happy outcomes to whatever he chooses to decide. He will be consulting his wife before making a final choice.
“One is to keep playing in this league at this age, enjoying every day, and playing the sport I still love. The other one is stay at home, be a Dad, travel more, enjoy my whole family – I have a wonderful family, and spend time with them. Whatever it is, it’s two unbelievable options. There’s no way I can be sad, whatever I decide.”
Ginobili became the 24th player in league history to reach 3,000 career points in the postseason and has competed in the postseason every year of his career. Ginobili spent all 15 years of his NBA career with the Spurs and won 4 NBA championships. Even the Warriors’ Draymond Green described Manu as first-ballot Hall of Fame status.
Besides being a star athlete on the court, he’s been a huge part of the San Antonio community. This was the first year playing without the big three (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili) after Tim Duncan’s retirement. The Spurs now find themselves facing the possible end of an era – again.