The 2013 Western Conference Finals are set, as the San Antonio Spurs advanced past a feisty Golden State Warriors team in Game 6, 94-82, Thursday night.
It took nearly every ounce of energy and talent the Spurs had to put the West's Cinderella sixth seed to bed for good.
Though fans may have grown accustomed to it at this point, clutch play from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili sealed the deal for San Antonio down the stretch. The surprise wasn't that they got the job done when it counted, it was how poor they looked through three-plus quarters.
At one point, the two were a combined 1-of-15 from the field. However, when the moment got biggest, they answered the call and had a hand in 10 of the Spurs' last 12 points.
Parker finished with 13 points and eight assists, including 10 points in the final 3:35 of game time. Ginobili tallied just five points, but registered 11 assists, including four huge ones in the fourth quarter.
Tim Duncan was the high-man for the Spurs, going for 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. However, he rode the bench through crunch time, giving way to Tiago Splitter and letting his two star teammates close things out.
Kawhi Leonard also hit some big fourth-quarter shots, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds. He was also responsible for hounding Klay Thompson through much of the game, holding the Warriors' second option to 4-of-12 shooting.
A fantastic postseason ended on a sour note for Stephen Curry. He emerged as a true franchise player over the past couple weeks, but shot just 10-of-25 and had two fourth-quarter points in a big elimination game at home.
After a scary Harrison Barnes injury, the Warriors were thrown off kilter a bit. The Spurs finished the fist half on an 8-2 run, putting them up 47-40 at the break. Barnes wound up just needing a few stitches, however, and started the second half for Golden State.
The Warriors didn't get the start to the third that they were hoping for. Four turnovers (two on Leonard steals) didn't allow for much offensive success, and four Duncan points helped the Spurs build the lead out to 55-45 with 7:11 to go in the quarter.
Carl Landry was finally able to put a brief stop to the Duncan train with a big block. At the other end, Thompson caught and shot in rhythm, banging home his first three (and second basket) of the game. That cut the deficit back to eight with 3:13 left and Golden State trailing 61-53.
Despite Parker and Ginobili being a combined 1-of-15 from the field, the Spurs took a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter. Courtesy of a few turnovers, the Warriors closed the third on a 6-1 run, making it 66-59.
David Lee, playing with an injured hip muscle, received a beauty of a feed from Curry and got the hoop and foul. He sank the free throw, giving him nine points in just 12 minutes. The three-point play also brought the Warriors to within four, 74-70, with 7:35 on the clock.
With news of Barnes' absence coming down, Curry's curl-around jumper with just under five minutes to play brought the Warriors to within two, 77-75. Curry wrapped around Landry and took a simple handoff from him, going right into his shooting motion.
Ginobili and Parker just kept plugging away, creating shots for teammates. Eventually, Ginobili created a shot for Parker, a corner three, which he drilled. It was Ginobili's ninth assist (Parker already had two in the quarter) that pushed the Spurs lead back to five with 3:35 left.
Leonard and Jarrett Jack traded five and four points, respectively, back and forth, and Leonard's corner trey came on yet another Ginobili dime with 2:00 left, pushing the Spurs ahead 85-79.
Next Ginobili found Parker again, this time drilling one more three from the opposite corner. The duo got hot at just the right time. He chipped in two free throws on the next offensive possession, extending the lead to 90-81.
The white flag was waved at the 37-second mark, when Mark Jackson subbed out Jack and Curry. Another pair of Parker freebies put an end to a truly great season by the Warriors.
Advancing yet again to the Western Conference Finals, though, were the San Antonio Spurs. That was where their ride ended a year ago, and this time they'll get a chance against a new opponent in the Memphis Grizzlies.
Game 1 of the series is set for Sunday in San Antonio.