It’s hard to remember the last time that San Antonio has been the team looking wide-eyed but that was the case in the first half of Game 3. The Spurs came out tight from the start, to the point that head coach Gregg Popovich had to remind them that “it’s just basketball.”
Memphis, on the other hand, looked like they were the the No. 1 seed in the first half, playing inspired ball with much more energy than San Antonio. They also dominated the top-seeded Spurs in nearly every statistical category, taking a ten-point lead at the end of the first half .
Zach Randolph was locked up in Game 2 by the Spurs but looked much more comfortable in the Grizzlies’ first home game of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, scoring 25 points. He used his size to cause havoc inside the paint, a smart strategy considering interior defense has been one of the Spurs’ weakest links all season long.
The Spurs got back in the game by employing a more aggressive attitude in the second half and taking advantage of the Grizzlies’ slow defensive rotations. Even though San Antonio appeared to be out of control at times, with Tony Parker serving as the main culprit, they found themselves down by only five going into the fourth quarter. They continued to claw their way back to a tie score in the fourth quarter, evening the score twice, but were never able to take the lead.
Desperate to put an end to the Spurs’ run, O. J. Mayo resuscitated his team and the home crowd by hitting a huge three to give Memphis an 83-80 lead at the 5:02 mark in the fourth quarter. And when the Grizzlies needed him most, Randolph would bail the Grizzlies out by hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer with 41.9 seconds left in the game. The Grizzlies went up by five and would never look back.
Adding injury to the insult of the loss, the Spurs had some scares in the game when Tony Allen came down hard on Manu Ginobili in an attempt to stop a fast break, and Antonio McDyess injured his shoulder with 2:56 left in the game when Tim Duncan came down on him.
Game 4 isn’t a must-win for the Spurs but they have definitely lost control of the series. The last thing you want to do is give a young team confidence and that is exactly what the Spurs have done. That much was clear as Randolph danced in front of the crowd after the game. What’s unclear is whether or not San Antonio can find a way to win three of the next four games, a necessity to win the series.