Heat 98, Grizzlies 91. That's the best you got, Miami?
This was as good of a loss as you can have in an NBA season.
The Memphis Grizzlies fell at Miami, but can take solace in the fact that they played their game against the defending champions. A team they already blew out earlier this season. They also held Lebron James, on a tear lately, to his most 'human' effort of the season. He may have finished with 18 points, but it took him 14 shots. Oh, and he was siting on 4 points well into the 4th quarter.
This game was a close, low-scoring contest all night. Miami actually had zero fastbreak points in the 1st quarter, which tells you Memphis brought their game from the start.
A couple of key strategic moves by Hollins marked the 2nd quarter, when Miami usually gets some separation. First, he brought back his starters (minus Prince) before Spo could get Lebron back in. It allowed Memphis to stem Heat's tide to start 2nd. He also adjusted the Grizz offense to run their 'high-low' stuff almost below the free thrown line. It was nearly impossible for the Heat to defend. The halftime score was barely in the 40s...translation? 'Grind House'.
At halftime, Wade hinted that Miami would run more in the second half: "we getting rebounds and we're taking a break, we gotta go." Well, they didn't. It was just more of the same.
Spoelstra's comments in a 3rd quarter huddle were telling: "This has got to be a grind game, not a frustration game." That said it all. It was Memphis's game to lose. Erik then followed that by completely glossing over the question of Lebron's struggles in his interview to start the 4th quarter. Memphis was in the Heat's head, for sure.
Despite getting a little separation from Memphis in the 4th, it was still a grind-it-out game late. The struggling James managed to be great when he had to be, hitting a huge three that put the Heat up 4 with 24 seconds left.
But Lebron's bomb wasn't the shot of the game, it was Quincy Pondexter...twice. In a two-minute span at the end of the 3rd quarter, he hit TWO huge bombs straight out of Kobe Bryant's repertoire...both over Ray Allen. It helped Grizzlies trail only by one after 3 quarters.
Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 22 points, while Marc Gasol was masterful with his 24 pts & 9 rebs. Zach Randolph was able to shake off an ankle injury on the second play of the game to chip in 14 & 9 of his own.
The Heat may have won the game, but Memphis is in their heads. If contrasting styles truly do make great fights, then this would be an epic Finals series.....IF it happened.