Tuesday night's game was an emotionally draining one for the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and fans of both teams. It was a very strange game. Many fluky things happened for both teams that dramatically impacted the way the game played out. The officials had an impact that cannot be ignored, but both sides have reasons to gripe. It was a game that had the highest of highs and lowest of lows for Spurs fans. In the end, the Spurs outlasted the Grizzlies in overtime, 93-89.
The game began with the Spurs playing very efficient basketball. Early on, it seemed as if the Spurs were going to cruise to another blowout victory. Everything seemed to be clicking once again, and the Grizzlies seemed frustrated just minutes into the game. The Spurs jumped out to a 7-0 lead. All three of their field goals were assisted and defensively, the Grizzlies seemed to have the same problems that led to their defeat in Game 1. The Grizzlies had no answer for Tony Parker's pick and roll game, and the Spurs were getting great shots because of it.
With 4:24 remaining the first quarter, the Spurs led 15-7, prompting a timeout by Lionel Hollins. During the timeout, the Spurs replaced Tony with Cory Joseph, and that's when it all fell apart offensively for the Silver and Black. The Spurs didn't score another point for the rest of the quarter. However, their defense remained superb and Memphis had trouble scoring too. At the end of the first, the Spurs led 15-13. Neither team made a 3-pointer and the Spurs shot 32% while the Grizzlies shot 28%. It was pretty ugly.
It should be noted that 5:13 into the first quarter, the officials whistled Mike Conley for his second foul. This was the first game altering call. Conley only played eight minutes and thirty-four seconds of the first 24 minutes of the game. I'm not familiar enough with Memphis to pinpoint how costly this was, but I assume it was fairly impactful for them. Although, in the first half, Memphis was so lost it's difficult for me to believe that they would have played much better than they did if Conley wasn't in foul trouble.
In the second quarter, with the return of Tony Parker, the Spurs found their offense once again. Tony only scored a single point in the second, but had six assists. The Spurs scored 31 points on 61% field goal shooting in the quarter and Memphis continued its struggle to generate offense. Memphis scored 18 points in the quarter on just 24% shooting.
The second quarter was basically what I expected to see in Game 2. It's what I wrote about in my "Optimist's Perspective" article. Memphis had no defensive answer for Tony Parker and the Spurs' pick and roll. The Spurs created and made the open shots that in Game 1, led to their franchise record breaking 14 3-pointers. In the second quarter, the Spurs made four of their eight wide open 3-pointers. Memphis struggled offensively because they do not have shooters. The Spurs packed the paint while daring Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince to shoot. Memphis couldn't find the space required for their bigs to successfully operate and the Spurs entered halftime leading by 15, 46-31.
It all seemed to be going the Spurs' way. The game was once again making sense after that first quarter drought. The third quarter began with more of the same. The Spurs' offense looked fluid and it seemed it would only be a matter of time before the Spurs would blow the game open. With eight minutes remaining and the Spurs up 56-40 in the third quarter, the officials made their second game altering call. They called Tim for three fouls in a row, giving him four for the game. Pop had no choice but to sit Tim on the bench.
Without Tim on the floor, the Spurs' offense continued to produce well behind Tony Parker. Parker had eight assists in the third quarter to go along with four points. So offensively, the Spurs didn't miss Tim Duncan. However, on defense, it was a completely different story. With the Spurs' defense in a weakened state without their best defender on the floor, Memphis had their best offensive quarter of the series. They scored 33 points on 65% shooting and despite the Spurs also shooting 65% in the quarter, Memphis cut the Spurs' halftime lead by three to enter the fourth, 76-64.
At this point, Tony Parker had already rung up 9 points and 16 assists. In the fourth, he was clearly exhausted and as he ran out of gas, so did the Spurs' offense. Also unhelpful was that just two minutes after entering the game with 9:40 to play, Tim picked up his fifth foul and had to go right back to the bench. In the second half, Tim Duncan only played eight minutes and forty-four seconds.
The fourth quarter was a nightmare for the Spurs. Their crisp ball movement, high quality shots and floor spacing disappeared. They were replaced by turnovers, of which they had five in the final quarter, and ill-advised shots. The Spurs only scored nine points while the Grizzlies scored 21.
It seemed to me that the Spurs went into their milk the clock and manage the lead mode. They stopped pushing the ball like they had been all game. They began waiting till the shot clock was at ten to begin their plays. It resulted in a lot of hero ball and poor shots. Memphis played well defensively, but how much of it was the Spurs' own fault for changing their style and how much of it was caused by the Grizzlies? That's tough to decipher, but I would place more blame on the Spurs than I would give credit to the Grizzlies.
Even though the fourth quarter unfolded in just about the worst way imaginable for the Spurs, San Antonio had the ball with a four point lead and just 35 seconds remaining. It seemed as if the game was well in hand, despite the Spurs' inability to score in the final quarter. But then, the officials made yet another game altering call.
Manu turned the ball over at half court. Ginobili raced to the other end and fouled Tony Allen, preventing him from making the layup. Tony Allen hit the floor seemingly hard and immediately grabbed his own head as if he'd been struck. He stayed on the floor for minutes, all the while grabbing his head and writhing in agony. The officials decided to call a fragrant foul on Manu and upheld the play even after they reviewed it. The replay clearly showed that Tony Allen never struck his head.
After the game, Tim Duncan spoke about the flagrant foul. "It's a weird play. I know it's a tough play for the officials. I think Tony just tried to sell it more than anything. I thought Manu did the right thing and tried to prevent the layup. You just let the referees call what they have to call."
So the miracle that the Grizzlies needed to get back into the game was complete. Tony Allen made both free throws and it was Memphis' ball. Mike Conley then made a difficult runner to tie the game. Tim Duncan missed a desperation fade-away and that sent the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Tim Duncan came to the Spurs' rescue. It was a good thing he did because no one else had the energy to lead the Spurs to victory at that point. Tony began the fourth gassed and in overtime, he was struggling to switch from offense to defense. He couldn't make it up and down the floor.
On the other end, Memphis was clearly tired, too. Mark Gasol, unprompted, spoke about the energy it took to make the comeback. "When you have to fight that way to get back into a game, it takes a lot. You have to execute better down the stretch. You have to think a little more. It takes a lot to beat a team like that."
So, entering the overtime, both teams were clearly exhausted. Interestingly enough, since Tim Duncan was in foul trouble the entire second half and couldn't stay on the court, he was the freshest player out of the ten that finished the game, and it showed. Tim Duncan scored six of the Spurs eight overtime points to beat the Grizzlies, 93-89.
-- A lot will probably be said of the officials by both fan bases, and both will have a point. I think what's most important to recognize is that the Grizzlies looked their best when Tim Duncan was out of the game with foul trouble. That's when they clawed their way back into the game. If Tim Duncan played his normal minutes in the second half, the Grizzlies comeback most likely never occurs. So heading into Game 3, the Spurs should feel confident.
-- Did Memphis break the Spurs' defense or was it just that Tim wasn't in the game? Did Memphis' defense stop the Spurs or did the Spurs stop themselves by managing the clock instead of pushing the ball and running their offense? I don't think there's much for Memphis to take away from this game other than that the Spurs are vulnerable when Tim Duncan is not on the floor. In my opinion, the Spurs are still dictating all the action that occurs in this series. The Spurs are in control.
-- It was an incredibly bizarre game. In the first and fourth quarters, the Spurs shot 32% and 21% from the field, respectively, for a combined 24 points. In the second and third quarters, the Spurs shot 61% and 65%, respectively, for a combined 61 points. On the one hand, they were on pace for 48 points, on the other, 122 points. Wait, what?
-- Tony played three of the best quarters a point guard has ever played in the playoffs, with no hyperbole. After three, Tony had nine points, 16 assists and only one turnover. Unfortunately, he over-exerted himself and had nothing to give down the stretch or in overtime. This is definitely a concern because he looked this exhausted in the Golden State series, too. Pop has to do a better job of resting Tony Parker throughout the game. The Spurs cannot afford to have an exhausted Tony Parker in the most critical moments.
-- Part of the reason that Pop couldn't find more minutes to rest Tony was due to the horrific play of Cory Joseph and Gary Neal. Both were one for four and absolutely destroyed the Spurs' offensive rhythm when Pop attempted to give Tony a rest. Pop should probably activate Nando de Colo so he at least has another option, or he could play Patty Mills. Mills can at least take Gary Neal's minutes, right? If Gary is going to continue to force poor shots when ice cold, Pop might as well throw Patty out there to see if he's hot.
-- Kawhi seemed to fade as the game wore on. Danny hit his shots, but didn't get many of them due to the Spurs' offense only functioning for half the game. Tony was on dead legs. Manu didn't have any lift to his shot or drives in the fourth quarter. The Spurs seriously need this extended time off between games. They are all spent and need to recharge. Their schedule has been extremely rigorous since the second round began.
Also, please follow me on twitter. I tend to get a little upset when things don't go the Spurs' way. (Just a little.)
I'm sorry but these refs totally made this a game. All the freebies. That bs flagrant. Forcing Tim to sit. This is an outrage.— Fred (@DartFred) May 22, 2013