The San Antonio Spurs have plenty of veteran leaders on their team, but facing elimination in the final seconds of regulation against the Memphis Grizzlies, it was a rookie that saved them. Gary Neal hit a three-pointer at the fourth-quarter buzzer to send the game into overtime where the Spurs would go on to win 110-103.
NealNeal led rookies in three-point percentage at 41.9 percent during the regular season, good for 12th-best overall in the league among qualifiers. However, he wasn't even the best three-point shooter on his own team during the regular season. Matt Bonner and Richard Jefferson both shot a higher percentage.
Before Wednesday night, Neal had only one attempt this season in the final five seconds to win or tie a game -- missing a three-point attempt in the final seconds against the Suns on April 13 that would have tied the game.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: This was the first time in Spurs history that they avoided elimination from a playoff series with an overtime win. Prior to Neal, the last player to make a game-tying three-point field goal with less than one second remaining in the fourth quarter of a playoff game was the Detroit Pistons Chauncey Billups in 2004 against the New Jersey Nets. The Nets won that game in triple overtime.
A lot of credit for Wednesday's win goes to Manu Ginobili, who made a tough two-pointer with his foot on the three-point line to cut the Spurs deficit to one point with just over two seconds left in the fourth quarter. Ginobili, who struggled in Game 4, bounced back with 33 points on 10-of-18 shooting. The Spurs are 8-0 when Ginobili scores 30 or more points in the playoffs.
OTHER NBA ACTION:
The Oklahoma City Thunder eliminated the Denver Nuggets behind a dominant performance by Kevin Durant. With the Thunder trailing by nine points with 3:30 left in regulation, Durant led the comeback by outscoring the Nuggets 14-6 by himself. Durant hit five of six shots in that stretch and finished with 41 points, which tied a playoff career high. Of the four 40-point playoff games this season, Kevin Durant has two of them. The Thunder are now 7-0 this season when Durant scores 40 or more (5-0 in the regular season, 2-0 in the postseason).