9:00 PM EST, NBA TV – Line: Spurs -10, Over/Under: 186.5
With four games in the books, the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs are deadlocked at two games apiece, with each team protecting their home floor, with the latter now playing host in what is essentially now a Best-Of-Three Series between these two western powers. After getting blasted in Game One, the Grizzlies (43-39, 7th in Western Conference) awoke from their hibernation (pun intended), and decided about midway through Game Two that they were indeed going to make a series out of this. At one point trailing by seventeen in the Second Half, David Fizdale’s charges put together a furious rally to cut the lead to a scant three points, before the hosts would put their foot back on the gas en route to a 96-082 victory. This prompted one helluva a verbal assault on the referees courtesy of Fizdale, who wasn’t pulling any punches in the ensuing Post Game Press Conference (mainly due to the large disparity in free-throw attempts). As entertaining as it was, the League Office loved it so much that they fined the first-year Head Coach $30,000 for sharing his thoughts aloud with us. Say what you want about the young skipper’s methods, but they appear to have worked. In Gamer Three, Memphis had their way on the offensive end of the floor, shooting 50.6% from the field, including 9-of-22 from beyond the arc (40.9%), while dishing out twenty-one assists in comparison to a mere five turnovers. Mike Conley (20.5 PTS, 45.9% FG, 40.7% 3FG, 3.5 REB, 6.3 AST, 1.3 STL) was masterful at Point Guard, scoring a team-best twenty-four points on 7-of-13 shooting (53.8%), including 2-of-5 from downtown (40.0%), along with eight assists, while Marc Gasol (19.5 PTS, 45.9% FG, 38.8% 3FG, 6.2 REB, 4.6 AST, 0.9 STL, 1.4 BLK) and Zach Randolph (14.1 PTS, 44.9% FG, 8.2 REB, 1.7 AST) pounded the Spurs in the Paint, combining for forty-two points on a stellar 17-of-30 shooting (56.7%), fourteen rebounds, three assists, and a pair of blocks. As well as they played, Game Four would be the pivotal fixture that would decide if the Grizzlies were going to be more than just a pest for their counterpart, and fortunately for them, they ultimately proved to be the latter. Simply put, the 110-108 victory did not come easy for the home side, who staved off multiple rallies from the visitors throughout the fourth period and in Overtime, where the aforementioned Gasol calmly drained a running, 25-foot, mid-range jumper with 0.7 seconds left on the clock to seal the win. Make no mistake, the seven-foot Spaniard was not at his best throughout the night, scoring sixteen points on just 5-of-12 shooting from the field, while committing a whopping seven turnovers, but nevertheless when the game was on the line he never flinched with the ball in his hands. Fortunately, he received plenty of support from his teammates, as Conley (a Franchise Playoff-high thirty-five points, nine rebounds, eight assists ) nearly posted a Triple-Double, while Randolph chipped in with twelve points and eleven rebounds, while the ageless Vince Carter (8.0 PTS, 39.4% FG, 37.8% 3FG, 3.1 REB, 1.8 AST, 0.8 STL) along with JayMichael Green (8.9 PTS, 50.0% FG, 38.2% 3FG, 7.1 REB, 1.1 AST) contributed nicely with thirteen and fourteen points respectively. The former made a bit of history himself, becoming the first 40-year old in Postseason History to knock down three-pointers (3-of-5, 60.0%) in a Playoff Game. Fizdale’s charges were clearly the more aggressive side, pounding San Antonio on the glass (51-37), while enjoying an advantage from the Free-Throw Line for the first time all series (22-of-24, Plus-5), which should make their coach smile. However, if this group is going to take the next step and take a game from their opponent on the road, then they’re going to need to clean up their mistakes; As careful with the basketball as they were in Game Three, the Grizzlies committed a staggering twenty-three turnovers (which was a Franchise Playoff High of a different kind), which led to thirty-one points going the other way, allowing the Spurs to very nearly steal the game away from them.
Meanwhile, the Spurs (61-21, 2nd in Western Conference) let one get away from them Saturday Night, as they came oh so close to taking a commanding 3-1 lead in this series. This one nearly ended very differently; trailing by ten with 7:38 left on the clock, San Anotnio rallied back to tie the game as Kawhi Leonard (25.5 PTS, 48.5% FG, 38.1% 3FG, 5.8 REB, 3.5 AST, 1.8 STL, 0.7 BLK) capped a beautiful game in which he totaled a Playoff Career-High forty-three points, knocking down a fading three-pointer from the corner to tie the game with just seventeen seconds left to play. Before that, the silent assassin scored San Antonio’s final sixteen points of Regulation, totaling a spectacular twenty-four points in the Fourth Quarter and Overtime alone. With that said, the brilliance of the former Finals MVP would be all for naught, as Gregg Popovich’s charges struggled to get much of anything going on their own against the home side’s physical defense. Virtually everything they got was gifted to them by Memphis; as we mentioned earlier, the visitors parlayed twenty-three Grizzlies’ turnovers into thirty-one points, with a high percent of that figure coming in transition, where they outscored their counterpart by a decisive seventeen points. However, on the night they only managed to shoot a pedestrian 42.3% from the field, including 9-of-30 from beyond the arc (30.0%), while losing the much-debated free-throw battle for the first time in this series. Veteran Point Guard Tony Parker (10.1 PTS, 46.6% FG, 1.8 REB, 4.5 AST) added twenty-two points on 9-of-19 shooting (47.4%), along with four rebounds, five assists, and a steal, though the rest of the Supporting Cast offered very little; only LaMarcus Aldridge (17.3 PTS, 47.7% FG, 7.3 REB, 1.9 AST, 1.2 BLK) reached double-figures (thirteen points), while the Bench as a whole combined for just seventeen points. Guards Danny Green (7.3 PTS, 39.2% FG, 37.9% 3FG, 3.3 REB, 1.8 AST, 1.0 STL, 0.9 BLK) and Manu Ginobili (7.5 PTS, 39.0% FG, 39.2% 3FG, 2.3 REB, 2.7 AST, 1.2 STL) were largely invisible, with the former scoring a scant five points on a miserable 2-of-9 shooting from the field (22.2%), including 0-of-6 from three (0.00%), while the latter dropped a goose egg with zero points on 0-of-5 shooting (0.00%). Though they typically play at one of the slower paces in the league (), speeding the game up would go a long way towards putting the Spurs ahead in this series, for when Memphis is able to sit back and lean on their opponent, they can become a very difficult team to contend with. Simply put, anything San Antonio can do to create opportunities in transition or simply get easy shots would benefit them greatly. The Charity Stripe is the most likely way to go for these guys, who have owned the Grizzlies in this regard, making 83-of-102 singles, making seventeen more than their opposition.