VOL. 132 | NO. 81 | Monday, April 24, 2017
Grizzlies Even Series with Spurs in Game 4 OT Victory
By Don Wade
It’s a series now. Check that, it’s more than a series.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
It’s a gunfight minus the spoons. It’s the No. 7 seed Memphis Grizzlies having a real chance to take out the No. 2 San Antonio Spurs and the NBA’s preeminent coach and a cold-blooded superstar that almost single-handedly broke Bluff City hearts.
After a 110-108 overtime victory Saturday night at FedExForum, the win gently falling through the net on a Marc Gasol floating jump shot over LaMarcus Aldridge with 0.7 seconds left, this first-round Western Conference playoff series is tied 2-2 and headed back to San Antonio for Game 5.
Tony Parker, who has been winning playoff games with the Spurs since before there was a thing called Twitter, called Game 5 a “must-win” game.
Mike Conley, asked if the underdog Grizzlies were still in desperation mode, said: “Of course, we’re in desperation mode. According to the media, we were supposed to get swept anyway.”
So much for predictions. The Grizzlies are on a two-game roll. They were much the better team here in winning Game 3. Yet the popular theory was that they were riding the emotion of coach David Fizdale’s $30,000 officiating rant after Game 2: “You’re not gonna rook us!” and “Take that for data!”
So, sure, there was reason to wonder: Could they beat the Spurs again?
And by the end of Game 4, there were at least 43 reasons to wonder how Memphis did beat them again. For that’s how many points Kawhi Leonard scored. He put up the Spurs’ last 16 points in the fourth quarter, eight of their 12 points in overtime, went 7-for-10 from 3-point range, and for good measure grabbed eight rebounds, made six steals and handed out three assists.
“It’s scary as hell watching that,” said Conley, who nearly matched Leonard with 35 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. “He is unbelievable. It got to the point where you knew if he got a shot off, it was going in.”
And yet it wasn’t enough. An epic performance in an epic playoff game fell just short.
“Both teams played their hearts out,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “Just a fantastic basketball game. The fans got their money’s worth. Marc made a great shot. L.A. (Aldridge) contested it very well; it went down.”
But one key shot right at the rim did not go down. With 1:36 left in overtime and the Spurs up 102-100, Parker stole a pass from Conley and had a fastbreak with Patty Mills. But as Mills went in for what looked like a sure layup and a four-point lead, rookie guard Andrew Harrison blocked him from behind.
That started a fastbreak the other way that ended with a Gasol layup, a foul by David Lee, and a Gasol free throw for a 103-102 Memphis lead.
“That was the play of the game for us, outside of Marc’s,” Conley said. “For a guy that young to make a play like that in a big-time situation, that’s a five-point swing. We gave it up for him in the locker room, that’s for sure.”
Said Harrison, who also had seven points and three rebounds: “I just didn’t want to give up on the play. I thought I had a chance to hit the ball and I did.”
Leonard’s fade-away jumper with 12 seconds left in regulation gave San Antonio a 96-94 lead. But Conley, who had 11 points in the fourth, answered with a floater in the lane with 4.5 seconds left to tie the game at 96. Leonard then missed a James Ennis-contested 21-footer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. It was a rare miss in the fourth quarter and overtime, where Leonard was 8-for-13 from the floor and 5-for-6 from distance.
“Honestly, I’m taking suggestions on how to guard Kawhi Leonard,” said Memphis coach David Fizdale. “I’ve tried everything and the guy is just tough. Man, is he a superstar.”
The Grizzlies also overcame a franchise-worst 23 postseason turnovers that translated into 31 San Antonio points.
“You just gotta keep playing. You go on to the next play, and the next play after that,” said Zach Randolph, who chipped in 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Gasol finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists and also made seven of those turnovers. Vince Carter had 13 points and became the first 40-year-old player to make at least three triples (3-for-5) in a playoff game. JaMychal Green scored 14 points and Troy Daniels hit 2 of 3 shots from long range for six points.
The Grizzlies also took more foul shots, knocking down 22 of 24 free throws (91.7 percent) while the Spurs went 17-for-17 from the foul line.
The game featured seven lead changes, 11 ties, and neither side ever led by more than 10 points.
“Man, that’s a real playoff game,” Randolph said. “A real playoff game.”
One that has ensured a real playoff series that will include a Game 6 back at The Grindhouse. Of course, the Grizzlies are not playing to merely extend the series.
“We just have to find a way to win on the road,” Conley said. “In order to win the series, you have to win on the road.”