Slow at the start of the series and strong at the end, the San Antonio Spurs wore out the Golden State Warriors the way they have so many other opponents.
Tim Duncan had 19 points and six rebounds, Kawhi Leonard added 16 points and 10 rebounds and the Spurs held off a furious final rally to beat the Warriors 94-82 in Game 6 on Thursday night and advance to the Western Conference finals.
"They've got great character. They're competitive. They know there's not a million chances to do this sort of thing. They wanted it," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Tony Parker shook off a poor start to score 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter and Tiago Splitter added a career-playoff high 14 points for San Antonio, which had a 13-point lead in the third quarter dissolve to two in the final minutes.
Stephen Curry shot 10 of 25 from the floor to score 22 points on a nagging left ankle, and Jarrett Jack had 15 points as the injury-saddled Warriors finally tired. The Spurs outshot Golden State 45 percent to 39 percent and outrebounded them 46 to 40.
Second-seeded San Antonio will open the conference finals at home against Memphis on Sunday. The fifth-seeded Grizzlies eliminated Oklahoma City in five games.
The Spurs lost to the Thunder in the conference finals in six games last season after going ahead 2-0. They haven't been to the NBA Finals since 2007, when they won their fourth title with a sweep of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Spurs became the first team to win consecutive games in the series and hand the Warriors consecutive losses in the playoffs - and they did it at just the right time.
The Spurs quieted a standing-room-only crowd late in the third quarter and seemingly seized control for good. Instead, the Warriors roared back.
Klay Thompson, who had 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting, made a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter that sliced San Antonio's lead to three. Then Curry's pull-up jumper brought the Warriors within 77-75 with 4:52 to play.
Parker was 1 for 13 before hitting a corner 3-pointer before Leonard followed with two free throws to put the Spurs up seven.
Jack made a jumper and two free throws to bring the Warriors back again. Then Leonard hit another corner 3-pointer for the Spurs to go ahead 85-79.
Curry and Thompson each had consecutive 3s rim out on the same possession that could've kept Golden State close. But Parker hit another 3-pointer to put San Antonio up 88-79 with 1:15 remaining and send some of the yellow-shirted crowd of 19,596 heading to the exits.
In the end, most still stuck around.
Fans serenaded the home team with chants of "Warr-i-ors!" in the final seconds. Curry also grabbed the microphone after the game and thanked fans at half court, breaking the huddle with the crowd, "Just us!"
The Warriors had only made the playoffs once since 1994 before this season and hadn't won two games after the first round since 1977.
"It's inspiring to think of what we were able to accomplish this year and the foundation that has been laid," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said.
The Spurs showed incredible ball movement and had the Warriors playing from behind most of the way. San Antonio's first 10 field goals came on an assist, going ahead by 10 points in the second quarter and maintaining that cushion until late.
Golden State stayed close despite more injury setbacks in a season full of them. Andrew Bogut walked gingerly to the locker room with 8:31 remaining in the second quarter to get his troublesome left ankle re-tapped. Upstart rookie Harrison Barnes fell awkwardly while leaping to contest a layup in the second quarter from Boris Diaw.
Barnes hit the court hard and his teammates immediately called for the training staff to attend to him as the arena fell silent. He received six stitches above his right eye at halftime and ran on the court late to start the third quarter, bringing fans to their feet roaring once more.
At least for a moment.
Barnes left the game in the fourth quarter because of a headache, the team said. He finished with nine points and four rebounds in 31 minutes.
The steady Spurs kept making the Warriors work for every shot and grinding out points on the other end. San Antonio took a 61-48 lead late in the third quarter before Golden State started its final surge.
The Spurs made sure it wasn't enough.
NOTES: NBA Commissioner David Stern, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and prospective Kings owner Vivek Ranadive attended the game. ... The Spurs are 10-1 in closeout games since the start of the 2007 playoffs. ... Parker's worst shooting performance in the playoffs with more than five shot attempts came when he was 1 of 12 against New Jersey in the 2003 NBA Finals won by the Spurs. ... The Warriors fell to 4-1 after a loss in the playoffs.