NBA Basketball

Spurs aim to stay alive vs. Warriors

(Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The San Antonio Spurs hope to take a second step on what would be an unprecedented journey in the NBA playoffs when they once again face elimination in Game 5 against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night.

No team has ever won a series in which it trailed 3-0, but the Spurs were able to stay alive at home with a 103-90 win in Game 4 on Sunday.

It was the first time in the Gregg Popovich era that the Spurs have as much as won one game after losing the first three of a series. They were swept in a similar situation last season by the Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

For the third game in a row, the Spurs will be coached Tuesday by assistant Ettore Messina, with Popovich having left the team after the death of his wife Erin last week.

The teams had different views as to what triggered the dramatic turnaround in Game 4. The Spurs had fallen behind at least 19 points in each of the first three games of the series but never trailed Sunday.

The Spurs cited improved shooting as one big difference. After connecting on a combined 20 of 83 (24 percent) on 3-pointers in the first three games of the series, San Antonio bombed in 15 of 28 (54 percent) in Game 4.

The result: A team that had been outscored 105-60 from beyond the arc for three games was able to turn the tables to the tune of 45-21 in the elimination game.

It was a team effort. LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Dejounte Murray and Manu Ginobili, who had combined to make just three 3-pointers in the first three games, dropped in a total of 10 when it mattered most.

"It was a do-or-die game," explained Aldridge, a predicament in which the Spurs also will find themselves in Game 5. "Make it happen or go home, and I think every guy played with that mentality, that focus, and we ended up getting it done."

Meanwhile, the Warriors weren't even getting shots time and again early in the loss. They committed seven turnovers in the game's first 5 1/2 minutes, fell behind by as many as 10 points in the first quarter and never caught up.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr didn't like seeing it live and enjoyed it even less when he got back to Oakland and watched it on tape.

"Lack of focus to start the game was really the key," he noted. "More than energy, it was a sense of purpose. And I take a lot of the blame for that. I should know better as a coach of a team that's been up 3-0 plenty times -- you gotta know you're going into the lion's den ...

"Looking back at the tape, I should have taken a timeout three minutes into the game and broken a clipboard. More than that, I should have had them prepared pregame for what was coming, and I didn't feel like I did a good job at that."

The Warriors had similar early-game issues at home during the regular season. It helped produce a record as good on the road (29-12) as at home (29-12).

Even with Sunday's loss, the Warriors have beaten the Spurs in 11 of their last 13 meetings, including both regular-season and playoff games.

If the Warriors win Game 5, they would advance to face the New Orleans Pelicans in the Western Conference semifinals.

Updated April 24, 2018

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