The Spurs entered Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies looking to make a statement after Gregg Popovich made it more than clear he was displeased with their effort level in Game 3. The first half followed the same M.O. as before, with the Spurs starting well enough before Memphis gained the momentum with an extended run between quarters and the Spurs barely recovering to keep it close at the half.
The second half was much better as the Spurs continued to fight despite struggling mightily on offense. The Spurs were able too come back from ten down in the fourth quarter and force overtime on the back of an amazing display from Kawhi Leonard, but they couldn’t quite finish things off as Memphis tied up the series.
David Lee got the start in place of Dewayne Dedmon, who missed the game with an illness, and he responded by hitting the Spurs first two shots. The ball movement and energy level on both ends was automatically higher than Game 3, and the Spurs lead 15-9 just after the midway point of the first quarter. Leonard looked excellent with the ball, making all the right choices of when to shoot vs when to pass. Patty Mills came in and contributed a three and steal, and the Spurs built their first double-digit lead in Memphis at 24-14. However, Memphis responded with a quick 9-2 run to end the quarter, and the Spurs entered the second quarter up 26-23.
JaMychal Green tied things up with a three to start the second quarter, and with Leonard on the bench the ball movement for the Spurs was gone. An Andrew Harrison three-point play gave Memphis ther first lead of the game. Mike Conley extended their run to 23-4 on a three-pointer for a 37-28 lead before a Tony Parker three-point-play stopped the bleeding. Memphis continued to score at will, but Parker helped the Spurs keep up with seven straight points, and the Spurs went on an 11-4 run to get back within one. Marc Gasol and Vince Carter responded with threes before Leonard scored six points in the waining moments of the half to keep it close. Davis Bertans and Gasol traded baskets at the buzzer, and the Grizzlies entered the half up 55-51. Leonard scored 15 points, and Parker had 14 to lead the Spurs.
While the Spurs struggled to score out of the half as several shots jiggled out, their defensive intensity picked up. Still, Memphis was just a hair better on offense and got the lead back to nine with just over 7 minutes left in the third quarter. The Spurs continued to claw away, and LaMarcus Aldrdige had a monsterous dunk-and-one one the fast break as part of a 9-0 run to tie things up at 64. It became a physical slug fest from there with both teams going right at each other on offense. Mills had a three-point play to tie things up again inside the final minute, but JaMychal Green was left wide open beyond the arc to give the Grizzlies a 74-71 lead heading into the final frame.
The Spurs had plenty of good looks to start the fourth quarter but couldn’t get anything to fall, and once again Memphis got the lead back up to ten with just over seven minutes left. Danny Green finally got something to fall for the Spurs on an and-one reverse lay-up to start a 7-0 run, capped by a nice spin-move by Parker for part of his 22 points. Memphis responded with five straight before Leonard went on his own 11-0 run to give the Spurs their first lead of the half with two minutes left.
The refs made a crucial error in allowing the shot clock to go off on the Spurs and not stopping play to reset it despite the ball clearly hitting the rim. The Spurs got the offensive rebound, and Mills threw up a three at the buzzer, assuming the refs would stop play, but they didn’t and Memhis took advantage of a confused Spurs bunch to get back in transition for free throws. The Grizzlies got back up by one before another Leonard three got the lead back to two. Memphis tied things back up at the line again with 0:32 left. Leonard hit another amazing shot with 12 sec left, Conley tied it back up with 4.5 sec left, and the game went to overtime with everything tied at 96 apiece.
Conley and Parker traded baskets to start OT, and Leonard hit a fadeaway to give the Spurs a 102-100 lead with two minutes left. Gasol hit a three-point play to regain the lead, and Conley banked in a floater to get the Grizzlies a three point lead with 0:47 left. An exhausted Leonard lost the ball out of bounds, Memphis entered the bonus, and Conley added another point to the Grizzlies lead before Leonard hit a three to get the Spurs back within one with 0:22 left. Andrew Harrison hit both free throws, Leonard hit another three to tie it up with 0:12 left, but Gasol hit a jump hook with 0.7 sec left. The Spurs were out of timeouts and couldn’t advance the ball, and Memphis won 110-108 to force a Game 6.
- The Memphis crowd wasn’t nearly as energetic at the start compared to Game 3, except of course when they disagreed with the refs, but they got going as Memphis made their run at the end of the first quarter.
- Not coincidently, once the crowd got in the game, Memphis started getting several more calls, especially of the “if you flinch you’ll get a call” variety.
- Pop finally did what people have been begging for by putting Davis Bertans in for extended time, including big minutes in the fourth quarter, and he responded well with excellent defense and a three.
- A lot of things could have gone differently for Spurs to have won this in regulation, but that shot clock goof-up in the two final minutes really stands out. It changed the dynamic of clock management, switched the momentum back to Memphis, and was potentially a four or five point swing. They’ve now had their officiating favor of the series.
- Kawhi set an NBA record by making his first 39 free throws (and counting) of the series. The previous record was 32, held by the league’s current disciplinarian and Vice President of Basketball Operations, Kiki Vandeweghe.
- He also had career playoff highs of six steals, 43 points and seven made threes.
- Manu Ginobili still can’t buy anything in this series. If shots aren’t way off, they’re rattling out on him, and he is uncharacteristically out of position on defense.
The series is now tied at 2-2. The Spurs will return to San Antonio on Tuesday for Game 5 and look to regain control of the series.