The Golden State Warriors outshot, outrebounded and outplayed the San Antonio Spurs in the first two games of their Western Conference semifinal but left Texas with a disappointing split.
The Spurs controlled the pace in a near start-to-finish win on the road in Game 3 before allowing Game 4 against a hobbled Stephen Curry and the Warriors to slip away.
Maybe nobody should be surprised if this topsy-turvy series finds yet another twist.
Curry had 22 points, six rebounds and four assists on an injured left ankle, rallying the Warriors past the Spurs 97-87 in overtime Sunday to send the series back to San Antonio tied at two games apiece.
What started as a best-of-seven semifinal is suddenly a best of three, with each team already winning on the other's home floor once.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in San Antonio.
"It's almost like we played better there, and they played better here," said Curry, who shot 7 of 15, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range as a mostly stationary guard. "I don't know what to read into that, but I think the way that the game flowed (Sunday), kind of a low-scoring versus high-scoring early in the series, you just don't know what to expect."
With Curry's status uncertain until tipoff, the Warriors overcame the obstacles with contributions from all over.
Rookie Harrison Barnes had a career-high 26 points and 10 rebounds, Jarrett Jack added 24 points in a reserve role and Andrew Bogut grabbed 18 rebounds to help Golden State erase an eight-point deficit in the final five minutes of regulation.
The Warriors then scored the first nine points of overtime.
Even Warriors coach Mark Jackson doubted whether Curry could play, especially after his star point guard took an anti-inflammatory injection in the morning to ease the soreness in his sprained ankle and still had trouble getting loose. Jackson cornered Curry outside the chapel service at the arena to see how he felt.
"He said, 'I'm going to give you what I got, coach.' That's not the language he speaks. I knew right away that he was not 100 percent," said Jackson, who conferred with general manager Bob Myers in his office before letting Curry play. "Once again, it's that same spirit flowing through that locker room that refuses to quit."
Even for all the theater Curry provided, the Spurs seized control of a sloppy slugfest at the start until going cold when it mattered most.
Tony Parker, wearing a black sleeve around his bruised left calf, scored 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting but never broke free the way he did in scoring 32 points in Game 3. Parker said the injury limited his ability to elevate. Manu Ginobili had 21 points and Tim Duncan added 19 points and 15 rebounds for a veteran Spurs team that simply ran out of steam at the end.
"We put ourselves in a position to win the game and it's frustrating because we feel like we gave it away," Duncan said.
Golden State outshot San Antonio 38 to 35.5 to percent. The Warriors also outrebounded the Spurs 65-51.
"They did a good job in overtime. Just as simple as that," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Ginobili hit a mid-range jumper and a 3-pointer, and Kawhi Leonard put back a rebound for an easy layup to put the Spurs ahead 80-72 with 4:49 remaining in regulation. With the series slipping away from the Warriors, their home sellout crowd sat down and fell silent for one of the few times in the fourth quarter all postseason.
But Jack hit three jumpers and Klay Thompson added another to pull the Warriors even with less than a minute to play. After Parker provided a jumper to put the Spurs ahead 84-82, Thompson dribbled to his right and banked in the tying shot over Leonard with 30 seconds left.
Both teams missed shots to win in regulation, and the Warriors turned the extra session into a runaway.
Curry capped the overtime spurt with a floating layup, drawing a foul on Duncan to begin a three-point play that gave Golden State a 93-84 lead. San Antonio missed its first nine shots — and two free throws by Danny Green — to start overtime until Green's corner 3 with 1:29 remaining.
By then, it was too late. Curry had taken control — again.
"He's a player that you may see him playing one leg, one arm, and you got to guard him," Ginobili said. "So you got to respect him. He can really go off at any time."
The upstart Warriors are once again on the brink of something big.
The franchise hadn't won two games beyond the first round since 1977, when it pulled even with the Lakers in the conference semifinals through four games before losing in seven. This time, all the odds seemed against them again.
The tight turnaround from Friday night's game to the early afternoon start Sunday surely didn't help Curry's cause.
Curry clearly favored his left ankle and never showed any burst off the dribble, often getting face-guarded by Spurs defenders and taken out of the offense. Some of his teammates even wondered whether he'd respond.
"Watching him warm up, I said, 'Man, there's no way this kid is playing,'" Jack said. "Then watching him run around on one leg, he looked like Isiah Thomas against the Lakers in the finals, man. The performance he put on down the stretch, making plays, making shots, defensively, I sat back and was honestly in awe."
NOTES: Warriors All-Star F David Lee, who had five rebounds in a little less than 8 minutes, said surgery is "more than likely" on his torn right hip flexor after the season but plans to keep playing sparingly in the playoffs. Lee, hurt in Game 1 in the first round against Denver, had been uncertain whether a procedure would be necessary. ... The Warriors had never hosted an overtime playoff game in the Bay Area. ... It was the most points Ginobili had scored since he had 21 against New Orleans on Jan. 7. ... Game 6 is Thursday in Oakland and Game 7, if necessary, would be in San Antonio on Sunday.