SALT LAKE CITY — Foul after foul, free throw after free throw, the San Antonio Spurs won Game 4 of the Western Conference finals the hard way.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili took the brunt of the blows and made enough foul shots in the fourth quarter to lift San Antonio past a valiant Deron Williams and the Utah Jazz 91-79 Monday night, giving the Spurs a 3-1 series lead.
“I’m very proud of what we did in the fourth quarter because it was looking ugly for us,” said Ginobili, who scored 22 points, 15 in the fourth quarter, after having only 14 the previous game. “We stepped up and did a really good job.”
This was the first game of the series still in doubt in the fourth quarter, causing tempers to flare and bodies to fly. The Jazz got four technical fouls down the stretch, including the ejection of coach Jerry Sloan and usually mild-mannered Derek Fisher. Utah fans — seeing their team lose at home for the first time in eight games this postseason — showed their disgust by hurling things toward the court, appearing to hit San Antonio’s Bruce Bowen with something small.
The biggest blow, though, is to the Jazz’s comeback hopes. After a 26-point win in Game 3, Utah felt good about its chances to pull off a historic comeback but now will have to win Game 5 on Wednesday night in San Antonio just to bring the series back to Salt Lake City. The Jazz have lost 18 straight games in San Antonio dating to 1999.
“We’ve got to stay humble,” Ginobili said. “If we win Game 5, it’s because we play hard and fight through it. We know these guys are not going to give us anything. It’s going to be another tough battle.”
The Spurs went into the fourth quarter ahead by one and never gave up the lead. They protected it by going 19-of-25 from the foul line, with Ginobili making 11-of-13 and Duncan going 5-of-8.
“We just couldn’t keep them off the free-throw line,” Sloan said. Asked about all the technicals, he said, “I don’t want to talk about those because all that does is give me more trouble.”
Duncan finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and five turnovers. Fabricio Oberto had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Tony Parker had his worst game of the series with 17 points, two assists and three turnovers.
This ugly-but-effective performance — more free throws (30) than field goals (28) — puts the Spurs within a victory of reaching the NBA finals for the third time in five years, and the fourth time since 1999. San Antonio has won the title each time.
“It could’ve been a tied series and a whole new ballgame,” Duncan said. “It’s a great position to be in.”