Game 3 was arguably as physical as game 2, but the foul disparity was not as pronounced or imbalanced as before. The Spurs shot 8 more free throws, but had a woeful night from the line overall, 16-28, in an overall bad night for them. They were well below their usual defensive stinginess and it made their offensive mistakes, including 12 turnovers, a lot more pronounced.
Memphis played a lot better in game 3 than in the prior two match-ups. In neither game 1 nor 2 did the Grizzlies top 40% FG shooting. In game 3, they shot 50.6% FG and 40.9% (9-22) on threes, a much more efficient night from the field. The defense improved as well, keeping the Spurs well in check in the 2nd half. The Grizzlies took a 50-46 lead after the intermission, won the 3rd quarter 31-17, and never looked back.
The Grizzlies had a phenomenal offensive night. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Mike Conley all scored 20+ points each, with Conley leading the way with 24. Wayne Selden moved back to the bench and contributed 10 points including 2 three-pointers.
Here are the most important takeaways from game 3, an emotional game that was a quintessential Grizzlies playoff victory.
Core Four Minus 1
This was the first game that Gasol-Conley-Randolph all contributed effectively at the same time. It’s been a game of whack-a-mole for the season, where if two got going, the other one didn’t. Every combination of the three seemed to all click at once except the one that includes all three.
The Core Four without Tony Allen combined for 66 points on Thursday. That’s easily their highest total of the series, and they were all efficient and vital in the game. All three had True Shooting percentages at 62% or better (Mike Conley tops with 72%). Zach Randolph particularly cooked David Lee when he had the match-up, and it got Z-Bo going.
Kawhi Leonard only had 18 points, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 16, and when their defense is as good as it is the first two games, that most likely would have been enough. But the combination of the Core Three’s contributions and the Spurs’ struggles led to quite possibly the first time in a while the Grizzlies have out-talented a playoff team. The year 2017 has been wild.
Fresh (Old) Blood
James Ennis and Zach Randolph were inserted into the starting lineup for the first time this series to provide a spark for a lifeless offense.
James Ennis was really useful as a starter. The Spurs respected his shot a lot more than Wayne Selden, the previous starter, and it led to Ennis taking advantage of the close-outs by driving to the rim or passing to an open man. Ennis also has more size than Selden, who has defended Kawhi as best he can, but Ennis provides a different option to throw at Kawhi, even if it wasn’t all that effective.
But Zach Randolph was the one who really seemed to benefit from starting. He had 13 points in the first half on a #nice 6/9 shooting. Including a DUNK. A ZACH RANDOLPH DUNK. That’s as much of a spark as this team could ever ask for.
I liked this move from Fizdale. He was really insistent on Zach Randolph coming off the bench no matter what, but Fizz has been flexible all season when things aren’t going well. It paid off well considering the Grizzlies actually looked competitive in this game compared to the first two of the series.
Game 4 is at the FedExForum on Saturday. The Grizzlies will likely roll out the Ennis and Randolph lineup again to start - why change the only thing that’s worked thus far? Memphis can tie the series up at 2-2 Saturday night and suddenly, #BelieveMemphis seems a bit more real.