Struggling, startling, surprising, sobering, solidifying. Five S-words for game 2 of the Western Conference Finals in which our Memphis Grizzlies were defeated by the San Antonio Spurs. We watched some 53 minute balderdash where both teams struggled in the 1st Q, a 2nd Q where it was startling to see our starters shoot 2/16 and make it to the FT line zero times, a surprising 4th Q that saw the Griz hold the Spurs to 9 points, a sobering overtime that ended with poor, tired shooting and defeat, but perhaps revealed a new game plan and approach that's solidifying who should be playing minutes for the Grizzlies in this series.
In my gamethread blurb I mentioned that I'd be okay with a first quarter resembling something like 16-14, and I guess I need to start making more ambitious demands because that's basically what we got. NBA fans were wowed by a fireworks display of Memphis' 28% shooting and San Antonio's 32%. I kept hearing about how ugly this series would be, but I'm not even sure that those pundits were ready for that first quarter. Dazzling displays of jump shots fwumping off the boards, your garden-variety Tony Allen missed layups, some gorgeous and acrobatic flopping, and Tayshaun Prince racking up a whole single turnover for his lone stat gave the first quarter the look of what some in the gamethread described as a type of high school basketball. Both coaches came in with adjustments from the first game, and both teams were doing a good job of making the other stumble out of the gate. Popovich's and Hollins' metaphorical light saber duel looked more like the scene from Space Balls rather than an epic battle from Star Wars. And to quote Dark Helmet - @#%$, I hate it when I get my Schwartz twisted.
Then the 2nd quarter happened. The Spurs went ahead and looked like they'd just cut our heads off and make this fart of a game end quickly yet painfully. Folks, we just couldn't hit anything. The Griz' 24% FG shooting and a Three Stooges routine reenacted by Allen and Randolph where they missed seven consecutive point blank shots were sandwiched by 61% shooting from the Spurs and a total of eight blocked shots in the quarter. I believe it was around this time that the officiating really started making its presence known. Boo and double boo. I don't mind getting my blood pressure up for sports, but I prefer the cause to be the elite athletes on the court and not some 50 year old sadsacks, but enough with the Tim Duncan jokes (zing!). The whole first half was an elixir of death as far as I'm concerned: The Conley fouls, the lack of effort, Tony Wroten continuing to kinda show why Dooling gets minutes. Whatever adjustment Hollins had made were countered, subcountered and altercountered (I know .. those aren't words) by Popovich in a really fluid way that was making me sick to my stomach.
I was also angry. It looked like we were going to be subjected to the exact same farmhouse slop we got in game one. All I wanted was a chance to win, or at the very least not another brutal ass-kicking. The Grizzlies answered the call, thankfully, and coupled that with good ole Lady Percentages coming back into play. After abysmal shooting in the first half the Grizzlies started finding rhythm and began more aggressively seeking the better shots ... well everyone except Tayshaun Prince, but more on that later. The 3rd quarter gave us the flashy Obi Wan & Anakin Skywalker light saber duel with the Grizzlies actually outscoring their entire first half total with 33 points in the period. Tim Duncan's foul trouble gave the Griz a opportunity to mix it up in the paint and grab some second chance points. However, the Spurs matched with another 30 that was spread out by healthy contributions from several players. The Grizzlies were still down by 12 but you could feel their mojo coming back, and their ability to finally score sparked the whole team (uhh... except Tayshaun Prince).
The 4th Q finally gave me something to get excited about. It was really nice to feel that, seeing as how I hadn't received that direct excitement from our boys since May 15th. The junkie found his stash, in other words. The Grizzlies didn't continue their hot streak on offense, but with Duncan's minutes shortened again and Parker finally starting to go cold the Griz were able to chip away at the lead and, dare I say it, play some Grit and Grind basketball (btw Spurs fans, the Wit and Mind parody is clever, but we're not actually playing chess here). Zbo got it going on offense and defense, but his free throw misses almost eviscerated my excitement and they'd prove to be a haunting factor. We were the beneficiaries of continued ass-tastic officiating, and a Tony Allen Oscar-performance gave Ginobili a flagrant foul and the Griz a chance to cut the Spurs 4 point lead with 26 seconds to go. TA would hit both free throws and Mike Conley would double down with a tear drop in the lane to tie the game at 85.
But to sum up the overtime period quickly, we just ran out of gas and missed everything (again); finishing with 17% shooting and zero trips to the foul line in OT. Duncan would hit all 3 of their field goals and the Spurs would make enough free throws to keep it just out of reach. Spurs win in overtime, but the Grizzlies show some real heart and valor in making this game as close as it was.
Notes of Worth:
- Can someone please escort Tayshaun Prince (and Chauncey Billups) to the Grey Havens across the great sea where Frodo and Gandalf went at the end of the Lord of the Rings? I know that dunk on the Thunder was awesome, but I have a feeling that might have been like a peach tree giving one last big harvest before it crumbles or that mean cat your grandmother had being really, really nice to you for a few months before it died. In our past 3 games he's made 6 of his 23 shots whereas one Q.Pondexter has gone 11 of his 19. Nothing personal against Prince, but Pondexter has got to start. He's clearly the better option here, both offensively and defensively.
- We look tired. This long break will be good for the Grizzlies, though you can argue the same for the Spurs with Tony Parker being a little banged up after last night.
- Excuse my recap lacking certain details, like player match-ups. My ESPN.com feed was so bad last night that the players looked like 8 bit NES characters. Unless it was Gasol, I honestly had no clue who the players were.
- The Grizzlies out-rebounded the Spurs 60-46 (although take away that Zbo/TA debacle and it's a bit closer)
- After going 9/14 from the field in game 1, Tony Parker finished with 6/20 in game 2 with the Grindfather covering him for much of the game (the one matchup I knew about). Parker was still quite effective with a ridiculous 18 assists on the game. But once again, the point of putting TA on Parker was to make him work harder. Lo and behold Parker is having an MRI on his calf today. (NOT that that was the point of it, Spurs fans.)
- Our defensive rotations were much better and the Grizzlies were more selective with the help defense. Sucks to lose but at least I could sleep last night knowing that Matt Bonner went 1/4 from three in 27 minutes of play.
- The Bayless Hero Ball needs to be reigned in, but I still feel like he's got a big role to play in this series.
- K, once last rant ... and it might give off the wrong vibe ... but it's just a thought. The Rudy Gay trade. I'm still in strong support of it. I don't think we would have gotten to the WCF with Rudy on the team and him taking 20 shots a game. But as far as what we got for Rudy, man, I'm not very impressed. We have a shadow of Tayshaun Prince, a talented player in Ed Davis who has played nearly nothing in the playoffs, and Austin Daye ... whose contributions are frequently chronicled here on GBB. Anyone else feel like we should have held on the Jose Calderon as part of that deal? Or just traded Rudy straight up for J.J. Reddick and whatever SF we need to spell Pondexter for 10 minutes a game? Just a thought ... not trying to kick up the hornet's nest. I really love this team and I've got faith in them.
Back to the Grindhouse!!!