Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Grizzlies - Spurs Game Two: After Six Quarters, Memphis Arrives

My Head, I Say, My Head
This one was why you don't stop watching Game, just because it's stinking up the joint. This game was never pretty to watch, but it did get pretty good.

For the first 2.5 quarters of this one, the Grizz replayed the script of fall behind big early, make a middling run, then get taken out like a load of bad laundry. Tony Parker was dominant, with 16 of his 18 assists coming in the first three quarters. It was not making for Very Compelling Ball, and I was wondering if there was some way we could get the Clips or Thunder back in the playoffs instead. Even when Zach Randolph started to show signs of being himself again -- albeit a guy who couldn't make a FT -- I wasn't ready to buy in, but the Grizz kept grinding, and the Spurs kept missing. Memphis would up eating the lead and forcing the extra session despite shooting horribly and not playing clean ball down the stretch; they could have easily won it had Randolph made his freaking FTs.

The Spurs looked horrible on offense late in the game. Tony Allen's makes with 26.1 from a flagrant foul that seemed legit to my eyes despite the over the top sell job (Allen grabbed his head like a WWE jobber, which is all you will hear about for days, but the refs called it a flagrant due to the possible dislocated arm that Manu could have given him) were huge, and helped to set up a pretty Mike Conley make for the game-tying bucket. Old-school Memphis defense locked down the final possession to force extra ball, and this started to feel very much like the road team's game.

The overtime was really ragged, as both teams looked spent from tension, if not the minutes. Duncan and Gasol both had five fouls, but neither man looked aware of the situation, and Timmy took full advantage of his relative freshness. First was a block on Gasol at the rim to keep the lead with 90 seconds left, then he got a shooter's roll on a runner with 68 seconds left to make it four. Jarryd Bayless, an all-or-nothing contributor who looks like a much better idea in this series than Tayshaun Prince, made another mid-range shot to make the end game matter. Parker missed from the line with 14.6 left to keep things in doubt. Hollins, oddly, took both time outs, and then watched Bayless miss from the arc badly. Cory Joseph got the board from the Spurs and kept it interesting for a moment by missing the first free throw, but the second make salted it, especially after Bayless took time and missed from the arc to end it. The Spurs lead 2-0, and retain home court.

Credit where due: Gregg Popovich is playing Lionel Hollins like, well, the way Randolph played Kendrick Perkins in the last round. (Poor Kendrick. Even when he's out of the playoffs, he still manages to look worse and worse.) Zebo was actually better tonight, in that he didn't have the worst game of his life and got the free throw line. It would help if he started to actually make them. For the first 36 minutes, the Spurs' bench players, after indifferent contributions in the first two rounds, were just beasting. Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw are both giving the Spurs more than Randolph is giving the Grizz. Danny Green is having one of those unconscious streaks that makes you wonder if he can take the Manu role in the next few years. Kawhi Leonard was supposed to have a hurt back that was going to be a big factor in why the Grizz could win; instead, he's shooting the lights out. But then the fourth quarter happened, the Grizz held the Spurs to nine points at home, and it feels like an escape for the team that led the vast majority of the game.

Game three is in three days for some fool reason; plenty of time for Popovich to come up with something new, and for Parker to get the rest he needs to go deep minutes. Without him on the court, the Spurs look like a very different, and not very good, team. I suspect the Grizz will win Game 3, and maybe even Game 4... but this seems more like a first round series to me now, which is to say, a series between two teams with big flaws and high unpredictability. That's what I call fun, and we'll take every ounce of it we can get this late in the year.

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