What a game!
Things started out well for the Grizzlies. Early on, Memphis was extending their defense, pushing up into the Spurs’ guards, and using active hands to force turnovers. The Grizz were clearly working to ensure that they would able to put up points after struggling on the offensive end mightily in games one and two of the series, using swarming defense and quick fast breaks off of steals.
By the time Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called a timeout with 4:52, the Grizzlies had jumped out to a 16-5 lead, with seemingly all of their points coming off of San Antonio’s turnovers. The Spurs resorted to benching their entire starting lineup, hoping that their backups would take care of the ball, but the Grizzlies continued to push and led 21-8 with 2:35 left in the quarter. Just nine and a half minutes into the game, Memphis’ sharp D had turned San Antonio over eight (!!!) times.
Even when the Grizzlies stopped scoring on the break, the momentum carried over to the half-court offense. At the end of the opening period the Grizzlies had jumped out to a 29-13 lead, “The Grindhouse” was rocking, and the Spurs looked dead in the water.
Then things changed. A flurry of San Antonio buckets cut the Spurs’ deficit to nine a minute and thirty eight seconds in the second. While keeping the game’s tempo at a relatively slow pace and avoiding the turnovers that plagued them in the first, the Spurs found themselves chipping away at the deficit for the rest of the quarter. By intermission, the Grizzlies had seen their lead cut to four despite an advantage on the glass and the wave of early San Antonio turnovers.
The third quarter was one of mini-runs, as every time either the Spurs looked poised to take the lead or Memphis appeared on the verge of creating themselves a cushion, the other team answered. At the end of the period, the Spurs trailed by just one point, never having led through the game’s first 36 minutes.
The Spurs finally took their first lead of the game just 15 seconds into the fourth with a Danny Green trifecta and, while Mike Conley quickly answered with a three point play, the Green shot marked an impressive point in the Spurs’ comeback. The rest of the fourth quarter continued much like the third, with each team hitting tough shots and answering the opposition’s buckets.
The fourth quarter’s final few minutes were, in a word, tense. The game slowed to a standstill as both teams began to get to the line. Neither was able to pull away. The Grizzlies got themselves an opportunity to take the final shot after Manu Ginobili’s open three point attempt clanked off the rim with 20 ticks left on the clock. Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins pulled out a play that resulted in a contested Conley layup, which missed the rim altogether and sent the game into OT.
As was the case in game two, the overtime session belonged to the Spurs, as San Antonio took the game by a final of 104-93. Memphis gave a valiant effort, but it wasn’t enough as Tony Parker and Tim Duncan were huge for the Spurs.
The Spurs are a game away from the NBA Finals. Tonight’s contest was a classic.