Less than 24 hours after ending the winning streak of the Golden State Warriors, the Grizzlies found themselves facing the Spurs in San Antonio, a place from which they hadn't walked out with a victory in over three years. On this night, however, Memphis would buck that trend and emerge with a rare win in a wacky, wild game.
This game had everything: All the classic elements of a Grizzlies/Spurs match-up like, Gasol/Duncan one-on-one in the post, wide open Spurs in the corner, failed ZBo-Iso's, and Manu Ginobili hitting a crazy, virtually impossible 3-point shot. It also featured some new and unique aspects to the classic Grizzlies/Spurs match-up like, Vince Carter hero ball, double-digit Grizzly leads, successful ZBo-Iso's, and Marc Gasol hitting a crazy, virtually impossible 3-point shot to send the game into overtime.
Memphis, despite playing the second game of a back to back, came out hot to start the game, shooting 70% in the first quarter. Taking advantage of a Spurs team without Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, the Grizzlies jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the first two and a half minutes of play. Precise shooting and good ball movement allowed the Grizzlies to mount a double-digit lead, as they had 10 assists on 14 made shots, and led 34-19 after one.
That lead would balloon to 23 early in the second behind the hot hand of Vince Carter. Carter, who had his first really good game of the season the following night against the Warriors. He carried that momentum into Wednesday night's game, and had 13 of his 18 points in the first half to help ignite the early Grizzly lead. Trailing 44-21, San Antonio used a quick 10-2 burst to climb back to within 15, and put a sinking feeling into the stomachs of Grizzlies fans and players alike. After the Spurs won a jump ball, Manu Ginobili took a fall away three that was heavily contested by Courtney Lee, put it in, and got the whistle for his troubles to cut the Memphis lead all the way down to seven at 52-45 to end the half.
The Grizzlies would regain their composure coming into the third quarter, and open up on a 10-0 run while holding the Spurs scoreless over the first 5:25 of the period. San Antonio would score on each of its next six possessions however, cutting the lead back down to eight. Manu Ginobili and Danny Green each hit two 3's, and the Grizzlies lead was a mere five points heading into the final quarter of play, where things would begin to get really interesting.
Danny Green, who was scoreless in the first half, scored 13 of his team high 25 in the fourth quarter, and helped the Spurs take their first lead of the game. The lead would change hands five times over the final 8 minutes, with neither team holding an advantage of more than 3 points. With 1:21 to go in the game and the score tied 85-85, Zach Randolph split a pair of free throws to give Memphis a one-point lead, but that was quickly erased by a Danny Green 3 on the other end. After Tim Duncan hit a pair of free throws, Vince Carter missed a 3 to tie it, but stole the rebound from Boris Diaw, and got the ball to Mike Conley who drilled an incredible shot from beyond the arc to tie it all up at 89 with only seven seconds to play. The Spurs inbounded the ball to Manu Ginobili, and the Grizzlies, determined not to let him beat them, over-pursued and left Danny Green wide open in the corner, and he hit a dagger 3 to give the spurs the lead 92-89 with under three seconds to go. Memphis inbounded the ball to Marc Gasol at the top of the key, and he was able to pump fake around Manu Ginobili, who opted not to foul, and bank in a desperation 3 to send the game into overtime.
Memphis opened the first overtime on a 6-3 run to give themselves a lead, but as had been the case for most of the night, the Spurs used the 3-point shot to get themselves back in the game. Boris Diaw and Danny Green would each make a 3 on consecutive possessions, and San Antonio led 101-100 with 1:21 to play. The Grizzlies were unable to score out of a time-out, and after Tim Duncan split a pair of free throws, trailed by two points with 48 seconds to play. After a missed 3-pointer from Vince Carter, Manu Ginobili would throw a poor outlet pass to Danny Green that was disrupted by Courtney Lee, sending both Lee and Green to the floor. With Green still down in the back-court but a quick recovery from Courtney Lee, Memphis used the 5-on-4 advantage to get the ball inside, and Marc Gasol would put in a layup with 9 seconds to play. The ball would again come to Ginobili who was unable to score, sending the game into a second overtime.
The Grizzlies would again strike first, taking a four-point lead as the Spurs failed to score in the first 2:29 over the second overtime period. But trailing 106-102, the Spurs used a quick 7-2 run, capped off by a Boris Diaw 3-pointer, to regain the lead at 109-108 with under a minute remaining. Mike Conley missed a runner with 37 seconds left, and the Spurs had an opportunity to ice the game. With under 10 seconds, Tim Duncan missed two shots right at the rim and Zach Randolph secured the rebound. Opting not to call a time out and give the Spurs an opportunity to set their defense, Memphis pushed the ball quickly up the court, finding Courtney Lee open in the corner who nailed a 3-pointer to put the Grizzlies up two with just two seconds remaining on the clock. The Spurs would inbound the ball to Tim Duncan, who was guarded heavily by Marc Gasol. Duncan could do nothing but hoist up a fade away prayer that hit the back board, then the front of the rim, then the back of the rim, as the basketball gods contemplated whether they'd seen enough, before finally determining they hadn't, allowing the ball to roll in, and sending the game to a third overtime.
Tired legs would hamper the Spurs in the third overtime, as they would miss three of their first four shots, while Memphis hit each of their first three, and led 117-113. With 43 seconds to play, Tim Duncan short armed a dunk attempt, and the ball ricocheted off the front of the rim and over to Manu Ginobili, who kicked it over to Danny Green for the wide open 3 to pull the Spurs back within a point at 117-116. After two missed jumpers by the Grizzlies, San Antonio had a chance to win it with under 10 seconds to play, but Manu Ginobili air balled a deep 3, and Mike Conley grabbed the rebound and chucked the ball into the air to run out the clock to give the Grizzlies a hard fought victory.
Game Notes from the Legend-wait for it-Diary
- The Spurs made a season-high 17 3's in this game, including 7 from Danny Green. The Grizzlies have to figure out a way to stop over-playing on defense so that they can force the Spurs to take 2's instead of 3's.
- San Antonio shot 13 more free throws than Memphis, and the Grizzlies were called for 11 more fouls. The officiating wasn't terrible, just terribly inconsistent.
- Tim Duncan vs. Marc Gasol is an all-time fun match-up.
- Zach Randolph had 21 points on 9/19 shooting and 21 rebounds on the night. He wasn't dominant like the ZBo of old, but he was ZBo when it mattered. He would have more success, however, if the Grizzlies would stop trying to run iso's through him when the Spurs have four men in the paint.
- The Grizzlies made five game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final minute of the fourth quarter and overtime(s), but they still really need a #wingscorer to take the final shot. Insert beloved felt covered frog sipping Lipton's ice tea.
- Just 26 combined turnovers in 63 minutes of play (12 for Memphis, 14 for San Antonio).
- Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were a combined 8-23 from the free throw line tonight.
- Marc Gasol will get the lion's share of the love, and for good reason, as his 26 and 9 combined with stellar defense were large reasons that Memphis won, but they wouldn't have been in that position without the excellent play from backup Kosta Koufos. Koufos had 16 points (8/10) to go with seven rebounds and two blocks while giving Gasol much needed rest.
- Over his last four games, Vince Carter is 13/26 from 3. Come to life, baby. Come to life!
- A few years ago, after the Spurs bounced the Grizzlies from the Western Conference Finals, I sat in my old season seats, Section 110, Row H, Seat number 4, and watched as Danny Green celebrated with Spurs fans not 2 feet from us. I couldn't bring myself to say anything snarky or sarcastic, because I like Danny Green. I regretted that tonight during the second half.
- I'll be really interested to know how many babies are born on August 17, 2015, and how many people called in "sick" to work on December 18, 2014.
The win snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Spurs, and should serve as a huge confidence boost to the Grizzlies, who improved to 21-4 on the season. Sure, San Antonio was without two of their starters, and Memphis blew a 23-point first half lead. But when the buzzer sounded, they walked off the court with a win, and that was something they sorely needed to prove they could do against this team, shorthanded or not. For one night, Charlie Brown was able to kick the football, and that's all that matters.
The Grizzlies will have a day off to rest and recuperate before hosting the Chicago Bulls on Friday night. For now, they can feel a tremendous sense of pride having proven to themselves that they can officially beat any team in the league, and because of that, the beat is most definitely alright.