Grizz Get Big 3'd: Season on the Brink

Ronald Martinez

Saturday night, in a must win game for the Grizzlies, Lionel Hollins lost his mind, and the Spurs key cogs flourished as San Antonio won by 11 in overtime.

There was a strange sound to be heard coming out of the FedEx Forum Saturday night. It made many different noises and it came from every different direction, but if you listened closely, you could hear it clearly, like the gentle sound of the wind blowing past your ear. It was the sound of an entire city being let down. The team that stamped out a mantra of "We Don't Bluff" wasn't living up to its promise, and as a result, the city that stood so proudly behind them, that boasted and bragged as if we were the ones knocking down jumpers and shutting down elite scorers, slumped slowly out of the arena. 18,000 people, all carrying small, yellow towels that read, "Believe" and yet they could no longer do so.

The San Antonio Spurs took Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals by the final score of 104-93, pushing our beloved Grizzlies to the brink of elimination.

Things started off nicely enough, as the Grizzlies stormed out to a 29-13 lead after the first quarter. The Spurs committed 8 turnovers, and trailed by as many as 18 in the opening frame. It was, by far, the best quarter the team has played all series, and had the game ended there, we'd all still be partying on Beale.

But it didn't end there. The Spurs would average over 24 points per quarter the rest of the game, and would cap that off with 18 in overtime. San Antonio's Big 3 of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli all had vintage games.[1] Duncan scored 24, including seven in overtime, along with 10 rebounds and five assists. Parker led all scorers with 26 and Manu had 19 off the bench. The future Hall of Famers shot 54% combined on the night, and carried their team to the victory.

For the Grizzlies, Mike Conley led the way with 20 points, and Marc Gasol added 16 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. Quincy Pondexter had a big game off the bench, going for 15 before fouling out late in the fourth. Tony Allen had 12 points, eight coming in the opening period.

For the most part, this was just a game where the Grizzlies got beaten by the better team. When it came down to it, the Spurs just made more plays than the Grizzlies did. Yes, there were some bad calls and some incredibly inconvenient times, but this was by no means a game the Grizzlies were robbed of; they just got beaten. I will, however, say this: Lionel Hollins picked the absolute worst time to lose his ever-loving mind.

I've been a Lionel Hollins apologist for quite awhile, despite my undying love for Dave Joerger, but to coach that poorly in a Western Conference Finals game, at home, in a must win situation, is completely inexcusable. Lionel played Ed Davis and Jon Leuer, two guys that haven't seen 20 combined minutes the entire postseason. He rode Jerryd Bayless for WAY too long, when Bayless not only didn't have his offensive game going, but couldn't defend any of the Spurs guards to save his life, much less our season. The biggest atrocity, however, came when Lionel refused to start Tony Allen, the best perimeter defender in the league, in the overtime. Lionel let Popovich dictate who he played and how he played them. It was just embarrassing.

Another key to the game, much like the key to every game over the last two months: YOU'VE GOT TO MAKE YOUR FREE THROWS! Memphis shot 55% from the free throw line, leaving eight automatic points on the table. Embarrassing.

Game Notes from the Legend-Diary

  1. The Spurs outrebounded the Grizzlies 50-48, and held the advantage in paint points 58-42.
  2. Jerryd Bayless had a +/- of a box of puppies on fire.
  3. The Grizz Girls did a number in overtime, after the game was pretty much over, trying to get the crowd into it, and it may have been the most pathetic thing I've ever seen in my entire life. It was like a group of rabbits watching a turtle race.
  4. Tony Allen played 26 minutes, less than 25 in regulation. (Insert Chris Vernon "but it doesn't matter" douche-voice of correctness.)
  5. I heard a lady bad-mouthing Quincy last night, saying "He fouled himself out of the game!" I've been the loudest guy in Q's corner all season long, reminding short-sighted fans and SOBers[2] about how good he was before the injury, and how it was just going to take him time to get back there. Anyone, anyone at all, who has anything negative to say about Quincy Pondexter after last night's game is a d*m*a*s of epic proportions. The guy has been our only legitimate outside threat, and he played all night with a lot of heart and hustle, and to say anything to the contrary is ASININE.

Coming home from the arena last night, I didn't have a lot of positive things to say. As a single guy in his early twenties, I'm more invested emotionally in my teams than I really should be. When they're up, I'm up, and when they're down, I'm devastated, and after last night's defeat, I was at a loss. I went to Sonic, ordered a vanilla milkshake neat, and told the carhop to keep ‘em coming. I finished two. I went into my garage and spent the better part of an hour and a half doing some maintenance on my bike. After giving up on my dreams of a late night ride around the city, I went and took a long shower. I watched Kristen Schaal is a horse. I watched the "You Do Not Get to Win!" clip from The Wire. On this night, there was nothing I could eat, drink, watch, or do. The Spurs delivered a deathblow, and it sucked. It just sucked.

In the wee, small hours of the morning, while the whole wide world was fast asleep, I lied there in my bed, my sleepy time playlist softly serenading me in the background, thinking about the Spurs and their massive attack. As my mind traversed all its rivers and roads, and sleep was slowly beginning to creep up on me, I abandoned the lamenting of Game 3, and started dreaming of Game 4. No team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit in NBA history, and the 2004 Boston Red Sox ain't walking through that door. Even still, I cannot wait for Game 4. It may very well be the last one we get this year, the last chance to cheer for this specific Grizzlies team, the last chance to suit up, waive our growl towels in the air, and go nuts with 17,999 likeminded fanatics. Despite all the negativity surrounding the team after the first three games, Game 4 has yet to be played, and the ending to the story has yet to be written. The Grizzlies are losing ground and gaining speed, but we haven't lost them yet.

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[1] I say vintage, but really, when these guys have never really stopped having games and seasons like this, you can't really call these throwback style games. This is the norm for these guys.

[2] Shades of Blue-ers

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