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article imageNBA: Memphis makes history with first home playoff win

By Lynn Herrmann     Apr 24, 2011 in Sports
Memphis - The matchup between Memphis and San Antonio, now simply known as a bruising series, took a dramatic turn on Saturday night as the Grizzlies thumped the Spurs for their first-ever NBA post-season home court victory, a 91-88 crowd-pleaser.
A sellout crowd, only the fifth thus far this season for Memphis, watched in delight as the Grizzlies manhandled the Spurs almost from the start. That manhandling effort however, would be overshadowed by what will likely go down as one of the most dramatic shots in Memphis franchise history. From a likely candidate, at an unlikely distance.
For the record, Zach Randolph hit just 8-of-43 three-pointers for the Grizzlies during the regular season, a measly 18.6 percent. Already a thorn in the Spurs’ side, Randolph nailed a stunning 3-pointer with 41.9 seconds left in the game, giving Memphis a five-point lead and releasing nerve-wracking energy from a crowd that the Spurs could not overcome, although they tried.
With 5.9 seconds to go, the Spurs George Hill grabbed a rebound, passing to Manu Ginobilie who dribbled to the corner, pinned by the Grizzlies defense, and time expired.
In what could best sum up a major part of the Spurs recent woes, including losing eight of their last 12 regular season games and now two of their first three post-season games, head coach Gregg Popovich said after the game: “I should have been all over the referee to get the time, and I didn’t notice. That’s my fault,” according to MySA.
For those who follow the game closely, that admission would likely beg the question: What are the Spurs really thinking? Specifically, if the head coach did not notice the time left in a crucial game, down by three, with five seconds to play, where was he for the rest of the game?
Critical moments demand critical thinking. Even in a game. From the top down, that lack of critical thinking, combined with several factors, including a greater desire by Memphis than San Antonio to win, proved to be the difference.
Compounding the Spurs woes, their season-long strategy of depending on the three-point shot followed them to Memphis on Saturday and helped contribute to their downfall. As a team, they hit just 2-of-15 from beyond the arc. George Hill and Matt Boner combined to go 0-for-6 from that distance.
Falling behind early in the game, the Spurs once again had no match for the dramatic inside presence duo of Randolph and Marc Gasol, who teamed up for 42 points, most of them coming from the bruising and crunching paint area.
Feeding off the home crowd energy, the Grizzlies jumped out early, placing the Spurs squarely on their heels, a position they never recovered from until late in the game. Opening up a 14-point lead in the second quarter, Memphis was manhandling the Spurs, and the fans were in a delirious mind-set.
Closing the gap to eight at one point, the Spurs the allowed Memphis to jump back to a 12-point lead, 47-35, with 5:00 to play before the half. That lead increased to 15 before the Spurs cut it to 52-40 at the half.
Early in the third quarter, the Spurs closed within six at 55-49, before Memphis rattled off two quick baskets to open up another double-digit lead. That would be the tone until late in the fourth quarter.
Playing catch-up ball has not been a Spurs strong suit this season, and Saturday was no different. Repeatedly they would close the gap and when just one defensive stop could have been the difference, Randolph or Gasol banged in another easy layup, and Memphis would suddenly have another double-digit lead.
Free throws down the stretch would help the Spurs get back into the game, but mental breakdowns would be their ultimate undoing.
Spurs point-guard Tony Parker continued his dismal showing in the Memphis series, and in Saturday’ game went 5-for-14 from the field. Adding to that glaring stat, he committed six turnovers, with four critical ones coming during the team’s seven third-quarter turnover performance.
With perhaps the Spurs best chance at providing some semblance of strength against Randolph and Gasol, 6’-11’ Tiago Splitter remains a part of the Popovich coaching-strategy doghouse.
The much-heralded rookie from Brazil, the team’s first-round draft choice in 2007 who wisely opted to play European ball instead at the time, becoming the Spanish League MVP in 2010, has yet to see any post-season action.
For the Spurs to survive the series, now trailing the now-towering Grizzlies 2-1, they need an inside match-up against the Memphis bigs and production from the point guard position. Although Parker’s improved production is likely, a change in coaching strategy might be a bit more challenging. Those changes must come quickly, as the Western Conference number one seed faces a quick turnaround, with Game 4 Monday night in Memphis.
Following the lead of his head coach, Ginobili, who was trapped in the corner in the closing seconds of the game, said afterward: “I thought I had a little more time, but it seems that I didn’t,” MySA reports.
More about San antonio spurs, Memphis grizzlies, game three, western conference, NBA
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