Going into San Antonio for game one of their playoff bout, the Grizzlies remind me of that band from the Titanic, continuing to play despite their imminent demise. Dave Joerger and this team deserve tremendous credit for digging deep and finishing the season in the middle of the playoff pack, even though there's absolutely no chance of advancing past the next four games. However, I'm happy we made the playoffs, even if we're swept. Memphis outperformed expectations since the Gasol injury, and I'm convinced any playoff minutes will only help Joerger and the team's veterans develop fresh talent into important pieces for the future.
The Grizzlies had an abysmal start to the game on offense, firing intercontinental ballistic brick after brick. Mercifully, Memphis didn't give the game away immediately, gobbling up rebounds and playing impressive defense against THE MACHINE (aka the Spurs). More than ever, ZBo shouldered the load on offense, struggling at first but eventually finding his rhythm by hitting some shots in the paint and making some nice high-low assists. The Spurs gained ground, however, ending the quarter with a 10-2 run.
Memphis upped the scrap-factor 150% in the second quarter, playing classic grit-and-grind defense. Vince Carter was impressive, hitting shots, driving to the rim, and quarterbacking the offense on key possessions. He was sage against the machine. Jarell Martin had a nice pump-fake and blow-by bucket on Aldridge. Lance "The Mad Dance" Stephenson embodied the role of x-factor, hitting threes, putting Kawhi on skates, and single-handedly thwarting the best fast break opportunity the Grizzlies will see this postseason. ZBo impressed me the most, twice faking to his right, then rumbling to his left and grunt-hooking the ball over taller defenders. Despite this valiant effort, the machine could not be stopped. Kawhi scarfed down multiple steal-n-smashes, and rogue, magical marionette Tony Parker expertly stumbled his way to a couple buckets to cap off the half with an 11-2 run. Still, a D-League/YMCA all-star team holding the Spurs below 50 points for the first half is a lofty achievement.
Imagine if Magneto controlled basketballs instead of metal. The Grizzlies were the opposite of that in the third quarter, coughing up the rock with a raspier tone than Seth Rogen. The Spurs slap-chopped the Grizzlies defense as LMA turned on the jets, Tony Parker got his mojo back, and others cut to the basket for easy layups, swung off screens, and whipped the ball out to open shooters who didn't miss. The Spurs shot 72%, and the Grizzlies did not. They didn't come close. Yet I kept watching. In The Road, Cormac McCarthy wrote:
"Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to remember that.
You forget some things, don't you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget."
In the fourth quarter, Patty Mills wouldn't quit. I asked him to stop, but he didn't hear me. The Spurs scrubs kept the party going, expanding the lead to thirty and beyond. Those of us in the know call that a blowout.
Spurs writers have labeled this series as a four-game warm-up, but I'm hoping we're more of an agonizing double charley horse they have to fight through before going on to win the race. So far, the Spurs seem a certainty and my hopes are just a dream. Gentlemen, it has been a privilege playing with you tonight.