From the opening tip one got the feeling whichever team won Game 3 would seize momentum in this very close nip and tuck series. Memphis came out the gate displaying their trademark defense as the Spurs opened the game shooting 21.1 percent (4-for-19) in the first quarter and trailed the Grizzlies 29-13 heading into the second quarter.
The start of the game was so awful that San Antonio’s four time championship winning coach Greg Popovich took the unconventional step and pulled out his whole starting line-up towards the end of the first and inserted the whole entire second unit all at once to give the sleep walking Spurs a jump start to Game 3.
“We had maybe eight turnovers in the first quarter. It looked like those five guys (the starters) had been asleep since Tuesday, and so we thought we might as well get five different bodies out there and at least start to compete and not be as sloppy as that group looked,” said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich on replacing all five starters in the first quarter when the Spurs fell behind as many as 18 points.
Like magic, the Spurs got going in the second period, shooting 64.7 percent (11-for-17) to pull to within 44-40 at the half. They also picked up their defense in the second quarter, holding Memphis to 30.4 percent (7-for-of 23) shooting after allowing the Grizzlies to shoot 48 percent (12-for-25) in the first quarter.
As the Grizzlies went into the locker room only up four, fans at “Grind House” mentality went from “Where are going to celebrate after the game?” to “Wow, these Spurs are good.” Unfortunately for them, the second half would be an Exhibit A example of why the Spurs have consistently been in NBA title mix for the last 15 years and the NBA’s model franchise.
After watching the Spurs pull out of an 18-point hole to trail by two, the Grizzlies pushed their lead back to 61-52 late in the third quarter. But San Antonio again used a 12-4 run to close out the quarter, trailing just 65-64.
Frustrated Grizzlies star power forward Zach Randolph gave the Spurs a tip of the hat, “We are playing a great team with great players and a great coach over there but we have to find a way to come out on top no matter the situation.” said Randolph when talking about the nip and tuck affair.
As the game reached its climax down the stretch, two things were becoming abundantly clear even to the most casual of NBA fans. Number one – the Grizzlies horrendous free throw shooting is a big reason they weren’t able to close out the game in regulation. The Grizzlies were 10-for-18 (55.6 percent) from the free throw line, which included a pair of misses in the final 2:22 of regulation.
Number two – San Antonio has definitely been on the big stage a time or two and feels very comfortable no matter how difficult the situation. Their two overtime wins in this series highlights this fact with an exclamation point!
“We definitely feel comfortable we can out execute and out play our opponent in any tough situation no matter whoever our opponent is,” said Spurs Point Guard Tony Parker of the biggest victories he’s been a part of with the Spurs.
A lot of people feel experience is overrated in sports in general. I challenge them to watch this series in its entirety as the experience is the reason the San Antonio Spurs is one game away from the NBA Finals instead of down 2-1 with their backs against the wall.
Kendrick Johnson is an independent sports television, radio, and print journalist. He can be reached email@example.com or on Twitter
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