The San Antonio Spurs have no interest in returning to Utah anytime soon and especially not as early as Friday for a potential Game 6 in the Western Conference Finals.
To that end, they played like the composed, veteran team they are down the stretch to beat the Utah Jazz 91-79 on Monday night in EnergySolutions Arena.
"We understood that we didn't want to come back here," said Spurs guard Bruce Bowen.
Now there is an outstanding chance they won't have to come back. The win gives San Antonio a 3-1 series lead and the opportunity to close out the best-of-seven series on Wednesday night in Texas.
"It could have been a tied series and a whole new ball game," said Spurs power forward Tim Duncan. "We put them in a hole now at 3-1 going back to our house. It's a great position to be in."
San Antonio, a team filled with playoff veterans, kept their composure down the stretch at the same time the Jazz started to collapse.
The Spurs led by just one point, at 67-66, with under 10 minutes to play in the game when San Antonio's super-sub Manu Ginobili nailed a 3-pointer. It was perhaps the biggest shot of the game, but certainly not the only offense Ginobili would provide down the stretch. He scored 16 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth.
"Manu was very aggressive in the fourth quarter and got himself open a couple of times, made some shots and free throws," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "We needed to score in the fourth, and he helped us do that."
Ginobili made a living at the foul line in the fourth quarter in part due to four technical fouls called against the Jazz. He made 11 of his 13 attempts from the line in the final period alone.
"We moved the ball a little bit better, and when we took a six-, eight-point lead, they got a little frustrated and they started fouling more and we were good from the line," said Ginobili.
The Spurs went 19-for-25 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. By comparison, the Jazz attempted only two foul shots, making one.
"In this game you've got to have that composure," said Bowen.
The Spurs had composure. The Jazz didn't.
And because of that, San Antonio is one win away from going to yet another NBA Finals.
But ever the professionals they are, the Spurs are not taking a win on Wednesday for granted even though they haven't lost to Utah at home since 1999."The mentality has got to be the same exactly the same as today," said Ginobili. "If we are going to win Game 5 it is going to be because we played hard and we really fought through it and had a good game."