Sunday, May 26, 2013

Spurs - Grizzlies Game Three: Tim Duncan Does Not Follow The Script

Tim Duncan Will Also End This
It was obvious how this one was going to play out: the Grizz, desperate for the game and back at home after the big comeback fell short in Game 2, were going to win. They were going to ride the emotion and the home crowd to a big early lead (29-13 after the first quarter), stave off a comeback, and go wire to wire. Maybe they'd get a mess of calls from the ref, or profit from the Spur bench having Grindhouse Willies, but the Game Three win for the home team is just what happens in series that go long. And the second half of Game 2, not to mention the past history between these teams, said this series was going to go long. It's one of the reasons why I picked the Grizz to win; I was expecting the younger team to wear out the Spurs, and just wasn't imagining it ending quickly. Teams are too close, right?

Well, Tim Duncan was part of that early script; all of the Spur starters looked bad early, as you might imagine from that score. But he wasn't going to be part of the full.

So Memphis raced out to an 18 point lead, and this looked deep in the list of That'll Happen... but the Spurs didn't just come back to tie it up, but take a two-possession lead and look like they were just going to end it. And they just might of, if Mike Conley doesn't hit a bailout three for all kinds of utility. And when Quincy Pondexter hit from the corner with 8:10 left, the lead was gone and the crowd started to breathe again. Without Conley's make at the end of the clock, maybe the Spurs extend the lead, and the game starts to get out of hand. Instead of, well, later. But back to Duncan.

With four minutes left, Pondexter had a transition chance with Duncan back. The big man didn't block it and didn't foul, but he clearly got in the head of the bench guard, and the front rim bunny miss was positively Jedi-esque. Sure, Timmy shorted a corner jumper and followed it up with a bad foul on Tony Allen... but that might have been his last bad basketball moment of the night, and even that only cost the Spurs a point, since the Grizz were in 50% Mode from the line.

Getting into the nitty gritty of what decided this one... Allen was called for a terrible foul on what should have been a turnover, but Danny Green's 3 stayed out (Ball Don't Lie!) for an Allen board. Conley missed in traffic on a good look, and the Spurs got the board after a silly peep show. Duncan hit Manu Ginobili perfectly after the timeout for an easy back door cut, but Marc Gasols answered for the lead with a minute left; that might have been Gasol's last good moment of the game. Pondexter fouled out on another Manu move to the hoop, and it seemed like the reserve didn't know the count. Ginobili doesn't miss FTs that matter, so the Spurs got the lead back. Allen got a call on Manu back with 33.9 and split a pair to make it even again; those misses by the Grizz at the line in the fourth were inexcusable. Manu missed from the arc; he had a clean shot at it, but just didn't get it done. With 19 seconds left, the Grizz were in the win or overtime moment, assuming you can avoid the disaster turnover. Conley and Gasol burned clock, but the point guard missed at the buzzer as Jeff van Gundy swore fealty to the idea that only Big Stars With Size can win games late and close. Guess they should just quit then, right?

Well, no, but it would have saved everyone five minutes of Tim Duncan Will End You.

The second overtime of the series (seriously, Memphis PA, you probably deserve much misery with your embrace of Journey) began with Duncan making his forever line jumper, with Randolph answering Moses Malone volleyball style. Duncan then went old-school and one with Gasol's fifth; the Hall of Famer got away with an elbow to the face that was the equivalent of a knockout punch. Gasol missed on the other end, and a Tiago Splitter hook gave the Spurs a 5-point lead early in the period: trouble. Conley ended a bad over-dribble possession by getting absolutely mauled by Duncan for his fifth foul, and only made one of two. Parker's easy lane pull up made it six. Gasol missed an easy one down low, and Splitter connected again for an 8-point lead with 2:19 left. You really don't expect a great defensive team to allow 5-for-5 to start overtime at home.

Conley connected at the end of a long clock. Duncan finally missed, but Gasol's nightmare OT continued with a back-iron miss. Parker ran clock, then got the series-ending and-one on Randolph, and wow, this is so not the Grizzly team that played the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Spurs' largest lead of the game game with a minute left in overtime, and the Grizz, for some reason, didn't foul; a Parker miss led to an easy Duncan follow for the signature closeout putback over Conley. Your final was 104-93, and honestly, it wasn't that close. The Grizz's first home loss of the post-season now puts them in the position of trying to overcome that 107-0 record of NBA teams with a 3-0 hole. The Grizz just haven't shot well enough to win, especially in overtime.

Game four is Monday, and I'd expect the Grizz to respond with some heart, but hell -- I picked them to win in six, and wasn't all that unhappy with the pick even after they fell behind 2-0. When you are giving up 24-10 to Duncan at this point in his career, anything is possible. Except, well, a long series.

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