Playoffs 2017: West Finals -- Warriors (1) vs. Spurs (2)
With or without Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs confident heading into Game 3
SAN ANTONIO — The pity party is over. The Spurs say they are ready to get back to challenging the Warriors in Saturday’s Game 3 of the Western Conference finals (9 ET, ESPN), with or without the injured Kawhi Leonard.
“I think we had the game in which we felt sorry for ourselves and struggled mentally, and now it’s over,” said the venerable Manu Ginobili.
“If he [Leonard] plays great, because we all know what he gives us on the court. If he doesn’t, it’s over and we have to go and compete as hard as we can and do our best game. I think we do have to believe that we have no option on Game 3 in this situation. It’s huge, yeah.
Leonard listed as questionable for Game 3
“You hope that he is ready and that he can help us. If he doesn’t, we will try to face the game as if it’s a Game 7. We know that going down (3-0) would be really tough to overcome and Game 3 is huge. We had a tough one in Game 2. We struggled in multiple ways, and we really have to take the next one.”
After letting a 25-point lead slip away and losing the opener 113-111, the Spurs were thumped from the opening tip in Game 2, losing 136-100, which led coach Gregg Popovich to say the players had no belief they could win without Leonard and point guard Tony Parker, who was lost to a torn left quadriceps tend in the previous series against Houston.
“It was a tough game,” Ginobili said. “I am not completely shocked at the way the game developed. We were kind of hurting, not only because of Kawhi’s absence but because of the way Game 1 went. It was really a tough one in all sorts of ways.”
Popovich said it was not more difficult making contingency plans based on Leonard’s availability.
“No. Either he’s going to play, or he’s not,” Popovich said. “Everything else, you just work on what you want to work on.”
And the coach said he was confident that this time his players would take the necessary level of belief in themselves on the court.
“I believe that,” he said.
Point guard Patty Mills agreed.
“For sure,” he said. “We’d obviously like to be two up or something like that instead of being two down, but we’re alright. We’re in a spot where we have an opportunity. Belief is still there. Confidence is still there. We just need to show it. We didn’t show it in Game 2 and it obviously affected us.
“Like I said, we have an opportunity here at home to come out and play with passion and play hard. We earned that right. We respect each other so much that we deserve to come out and play hard and play Spurs basketball. We’ll either come out and win playing Spurs basketball or we’ll lose playing Spurs basketball. This thing is far from over. We have a lot of juice still in the tank to come out and we owe it to each other to play the right way. Belief, confidence all that stuff is still there because this is far from over.”
“They took care of home business the first two games and we’ve got the opportunity to do the same thing. We’re really looking forward to it.”
Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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