Fast Breaks: Grizzlies vs. Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs will live to fight at least one more game, thanks in large part to an undrafted rookie. Gary Neal made a game-tying three-pointer at the regulation buzzer, providing the Western Conference's No. 1 seed five more minutes to put away the Memphis Grizzlies 110-103 in Game 5 on Wednesday in San Antonio.
The Spurs were led by Manu Ginobili, who finished with 33 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals. His overturned three-pointer with 2.2 seconds to go in regulation looked to sink San Antonio's season for good -- the fading, foot-on-the-line corner shot was followed by two Zach Randolph free throws with 1.7 seconds left -- before Neal ultimately came through to force a Game 6 on Friday in Memphis.
Tony Parker also delivered late in the game, scoring six of San Antonio's first eight points in overtime. The Spurs remain alive in their quest to become only the ninth team in NBA history to rally from a 3-1 deficit.
• While Memphis has two more shots to close out this series, including the next game at home, it wasted a golden opportunity to eliminate the Spurs because of poor execution in crunch time. Memphis' defensive setup on the Neal three-pointer was especially gut-wrenching. With Ginobili throwing the ball inbounds with 1.7 seconds remaining, the Grizzlies had to be looking for Neal, a top outside shooter, to curl around a screen and get the ball for the game-tying attempt. But rather than stack the perimeter to prevent any kind of a shot, Memphis went with a more straight-up man defense, even sinking Darrell Arthur into the paint to inexplicably box out Antonio McDyess on the shot. San Antonio has only one option in that situation: hit a three or go home. What was Arthur protecting against? A McDyess putback to cut the Memphis lead to one with no time left?
• In overtime, Memphis' execution on the other end wasn't much better. First, trailing 105-103 with 1:10 remaining, the Grizzlies settled for a three-pointer from Tony Allen, who was 4-of-23 all season from long range. He missed badly. Then, still down by two after getting a stop, Mike Conley seemed to be waiting on a pick from Marc Gasol that just wasn't happening. By the time Gasol finally got into proper pick-and-poll set, San Antonio had sniffed out the play. Tim Duncan got great defensive position in the post on Gasol, forcing him into a terrible fadeaway jumper that missed the rim, resulting in a shot clock violation with 21 seconds to play. The Spurs then iced their victory with five free throws in the final 18 seconds.
• Memphis was taken out of its offensive game early. One of the league's best scoring teams from the paint finished with only two points on four attempts at the rim in the first quarter. It looked as if once Randolph scored the first bucket of the game, from 18 feet, the Grizzlies were happy to settle, shooting 6-of-20 in the period and falling into a 20-14 hole. If San Antonio wasn't sloppy with the ball (four turnovers in the first quarter), its lead would have likely been bigger.
• San Antonio's drive-and-kick to the perimeter strategy has been mostly stagnant all series, mainly due to Grizzlies' ability to play the passing lanes so well. But the Spurs took advantage of a few Memphis lapses to get off 11 attempts (with four makes) from the perimeter during the second quarter. That barrage included one straightaway three from Ginobili in which he bobbled the ball and still had time to set and shoot before a defender was even in the area.
• The Memphis frontcourt, and Gasol in particular, did an excellent job shutting down Duncan after a hot first quarter of 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting. After giving him some space to hit his patented bank-shot jumpers in the first, Gasol started to crowd Duncan whenever he got the ball. In the midst of a 7-0 Memphis run late in the third quarter, Gasol was even able to poke the ball loose and off Duncan's leg to create a San Antonio turnover. Duncan had only two points on 1-of-7 from the field in the final 41 minutes.