SAN ANTONIO – Before Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich dropped a bombshell on fans during Thursday night’s pregame press conference announcing Kawhi Leonard out due to a left ankle injury he suffered in the third quarter of Game 5.
With no Tony Parker – who suffered a season-ending injury in Game 2 – and without the MVP candidate Leonard, the Houston Rockets odds were with them to tie up the series 3-3 in front of their home crowd after losing Game 5 in San Antonio, 110-107 in overtime play.
Spurs shooting guard Jonathan Simmons started in place of the injured Leonard and said the team knew coach Popovich was going to sit the team’s leading scorer and defender when they got to the Toyota Center.
Simmons, who scored 18 points on 8-12 shooting and four assists, said the team was not rattled by the news and were going to take care of business either way.
“Everybody was focused, I think we were tired of playing these guys and we just wanted to come get it done today,” Simmons said. “Whether he (Leonard) played or not, I think we were ready to get this series over and we just showed it tonight.”
Taking care of business they did with Game 6’s leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge ending the night with a season-high 34 points on 16-26 shooting and 12 rebounds.
Aldridge said he hasn’t taken the time to think about appearing in the Western Conference Finals for the first time in his career and focuses on just working hard every game.
“I just came here ready to play and of course it’s a good feeling to be going to the Western Conference Finals but I haven’t thought about it,” Aldridge said. “This team (Spurs) has worked hard all year and we’ve grinded and try to be better (and) I’m happy we finally won tonight.”
— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) May 12, 2017
For Spurs fans, happy is sort of an understatement as residents from all over celebrated the win flooding the streets of downtown San Antonio.
Many stood on the downtown sidewalks with flags and posters in hand as they cheered “Go Spurs Go,” while others used their vehicle’s horn to express their excitement.
Spurs fans have not felt this feeling since the Spurs' last Western Conference Final appearance in 2014.
Scroll below to check out fans reaction after the Spurs crushed the Houston Rockets on their home court, 114-75, punching their ticket to face the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
RT so this picture can show up on a Rockets Fan's Timeline pic.twitter.com/UHwBkILGv4— Spurs DeMar DeRozan (@SpursDeRozan) May 12, 2017
Hey Pop, how many times have you've beaten Mike D'Antoni in the playoffs?? pic.twitter.com/0OiwQoMKwu— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) May 12, 2017
Spurs by 40 without K LEONARD are you kidding me WOW— SHAQ (@SHAQ) May 12, 2017
I apologize to James harden I'm ready to talk and end the curse... it's time to talk and be the leader everyone believes you are - Lil B— Lil B THE BASEDGOD (@LILBTHEBASEDGOD) May 12, 2017
Spurs aren't fouling out there, we need you to score without free throws— Russell TripDubBrook (@Jhickness9) May 12, 2017
James Harden: pic.twitter.com/3dsSVtvYKr
Got answers? Cause it doesn't look like James Harden and Mike D'Antoni do pic.twitter.com/deHUsOe96w— Matt Hammond (@MattHammondShow) May 12, 2017
I am so stunned by what James Harden DIDN'T DO and what my Spurs DID DO, I have to talk about it live on Facebook. JOIN ME SOON.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 12, 2017
"Mike D'Antoni has been to the playoffs 7 times as an NBA coach.— Enes Aslan (@enesaaslan) May 12, 2017
He's been eliminated by Gregg Popovich 5 times." pic.twitter.com/geVX3MP38u
still cant beleeve i saw james harden earliur todey pic.twitter.com/EhN7jkTmN7— Grag Popuvich (@ItsGPop) May 12, 2017
3 peeple who had an betur gaim then james harden tonite:— Grag Popuvich (@ItsGPop) May 12, 2017
1. teh coyote
3. kawhi leonard