Memphis Grizzlies 91, San Antonio Spurs 88: Tony Parker and milk cartons

by

At the end of regulation a confusing and chaotic swarm of Memphis Grizzlies surrounded the ball. There was not, however, a San Antonio Spurs 3-point attempt. So went the game. So goes the series. The top-seeded San Antonio Spurs now trail 1-2 after an 88-91 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

In an ironic reversal of the Spurs’ regular season success, it was San Antonio’s defense holding up it’s end of the bargain, making the necessary stop in the closing seconds of the game. It was the offense that failed.

Grabbing the rebound with roughly 10 seconds remaining George Hill pushed the ball, slowing momentarily for a quick glance to the sidelines, but without a timeout call from the coaches , advanced the ball ahead to Manu Ginobili. Ginobili was immediately trapped along the sideline. In giving the ball to the Spurs best player Hill took it out of the hands of its most under-utlized weapon.

In clutch performances few in the NBA are as brilliant as San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. While popularity polls lean towards Kobe Bryant as the best person for the last shot, for my money you can do no better than Popovich. A top seed with no legitimate MVP or All-NBA candidates, execution has been the driving force behind the Spurs success all season. So when one saw Manu surrounded with clock quickly ticking down, the mind boggled.

What was Popovich thinking? Why didn’t the Spurs call a timeout off the rebound?

As it turns out, Tim Duncan was attempting a timeout as Matt Moore of CBS’s sports expertly notes:

The buzzer sounds as the clock expires, Duncan is frantically calling for time. The broadcast clock says .2, but the game clock above the goal says .00. George Hill is still calling for the ball. Matt Bonner is pointing at Tim Duncan. And the Grizzlies are going up 2-1 in this best of seven series.

Now, there’s a world of things that can be talked about here. One, the Spurs should have called team when they got possession. Two, Bonner, closes to the official, or Ginobili, or Hill need to be calling time once the ball crosses the timeline. Three, even if the officials had seen Duncan motioning, there may not have been time for the Spurs to get a shot off. Four, the player has the responsibility there to alert the official.

But the fact remains that before time expires, Tim Duncan is calling timeout.

This, intended timeout or not, is still a case of botched end-game execution, something we’ve alluded to in recent days. But that is what the Lionel Hollins-led Memphis Grizzlies have done early in this playoff series. They have taken the execution away from their would-be executioners.

For all the rhetoric about the Spurs getting destroyed on the inside the Grizzlies shot a mere 42 percent and were beaten on the boards yet again.

All season long the San Antonio Spurs offense has been a thing of beauty; an efficient machine firing on multiple cylinders. The true story of the series has been Memphis ability to drag both teams through the mud, negating the Spurs strengths and putting both teams on equal footing.

In essence the Grizzlies are using heavy explosives in an extremely short range fight, hoping the Spurs are the team receiving the brunt of the damage. It’s a 50-50 proposition and currently Memphis is leading 2-1 in a game of heads vs. tails, punctuated improbably by a Shane Battier and Zach Randolph 3-pointer.

In the trenches, in the mud, the Spurs fleet-footed point guard has been deemed Missing In Action. Where is Tony Parker? This playoff series has gone on long enough to define a few trends. Memphis will not dominate the series on the boards as they did during the regular season, the Spurs will not find corner three-pointers, and most disturbing is the play of Parker.

Parker scored 16 points on 5-14 shooting, finishing with more turnovers (6) than assists (5) as Memphis once again moved the ball better than their opponents, out assisting them 24 to 19.

Few players depend on the 3-pointer as much as Tony Parker–not in his own shot, but in his teammates–and when teams have been able to remove the spacing from the Spurs offense they have generally been much more successful in walling off the lane from Parker. Such has been the case dating back to 2003.

If the Spurs are to take a game in Memphis they are going to have to discover a way to clean the lanes up for their point guard, because Mike Conley is not a player who should be playing Parker to a draw.

The fortunate part about Memphis’ love affair with dynamite is it’s just as likely to blow up in their hands. The playoffs are a grind and the Spurs have danced this dance before. Just because they have changed their stripes this season does not mean they have completely forgotten how to play this game.

Moments of execution and brilliance have flickered briefly in and out, keeping pace with Memphis best efforts. Searching for the right matchup, the right solution to uncork this offense and set the series right.

Memphis is running away, but in the mud one can never run very far.

  • Bry

    Dude, there is no karma. The Lakers spend 25 million over the cap, have all the Hollywood celebs, get gifted an All-Star power forward just when they need it, and their star player is a rapist. This year they choke down the stretch and are rewarded by playing the team who’s leading scorer blew out his knee and won’t play a single minute. Believing in karma is a sucker’s bet. The Spurs are struggling because somehow Tony Parker is getting outplayed, Pop has coached some bad games, and the Spurs are bizarrely getting out-executed by a green Memphis squad. Save that karma and superstition crap for book clubs and tea parties.

  • tradeTP

    the difference is Ryan, no one cares about the reg season. We can play run and gun all we want, there are 82 games a season and not many are worth the effort. Pop HAS NEVER had any answers or adjustments. FACT. He has a predetermined plan that he never deviates from. He has been lucky to recruit the talent that he has. If he was on a team with mediocre talent he would have been out of the league MANY years ago.

    He sits and looks perplexed any time there is a bump in the playoffs. After doing nothing, he returns to beat the dead horse and give generic “defense” comments. There has only been one other coach more overrated than Gregg = Phil

  • tradeTP

    +/- is a collective stat that the typical “analyst” on here cant figure out. Bonner could have a + even if his man would score every point for the oppossing team while he is in the game. If the spurs scored 90 points and bonners man scored 89, bonner would still have a +1

  • Bry

    I’m not sure why everyone is attacking Dice. He had a medium game as far as I can tell. I hope he’s not hurt, but if he is then Splitter should get some burn. The guy draws fouls and it’s clear that both Randolph and Gasol can get in foul trouble if we attack them. Our front-court outplayed theirs in game three. It’s strange, but true. We got crushed on the wing and at point. Ginobili did a great job getting to the line and hitting free-throws. but otherwise had a poor game. If Tony Parker cannot outplay Conley, then it will be very tough to win this series. Even so, the Spurs went 2 for 15 from downtown and this was still a winnable game (again). I’m optimistic, even everybody else sees the sky falling. I definitely don’t hear any fat lady singing….

  • Anonymous

    TD I think that you’re being unfair to Splitter the same way Title and Bruno have been to Blair. Title and Bruno, Blair is actually quite a solid defender but when he plays with Bonner he always has to guard the better ‘Big’ because we try to hide Bonner. So it’s unfair to criticize Blair considering he does make ‘hustle’ plays on defense (Title that doesn’t just mean diving on the floor for the ball, it means deflections, steals, weak side blocks, drawn charges…etc). Bonner doesn’t do any of these things.
    And TD Your putting to much importance on blocks, steals… etc. Splitter is a very good one on one and team defender. He scores best on the PnR, just like Blair and his one one one play offensively is worse than Blair but not by much. Everyone knows our best rotation of bigs is Tim, Dice, Blair and Splitter. Gasol has scored on pretty much every one of bigs but Tim has played him best. Splitter is the player most like Tim, on defense, and so you can move Tim onto Randolph and put Splitt on Gasol. I’d much rather have his length on Gasol than anything else we can throw at him. Gasol has been the difference in this series IMO.

  • td4life

    Popovich and the Spurs absolutely deserve to lose this series.
    Pathetic.

  • DBAGuy

    I’m going to say it again, the replies are annoying as hell. This site want a forum, it was a blog. I don’t have the time to search for new comments and even less to read the 2 inch wide by 10 inches long replies. This design has been incredibly disappointing. I’m glad to see i’m not the only one who feels this way.

  • DBAGuy

    How stupid is this replies look, it must look awesome to have a 1 inch meesageall the way down to 10 inches. DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB

  • DBAGuy

    These Spurs are a joke, all those people that said, well they must be doing something right to win 61 games, where are all of you now? As some of us have noticed all season long our defense is mediocre so we cant get stops when we need, we have no shot blockers, all we do is extend our hands, uhh, hello this is the NBA, people can jump way higher than your stupid hands. So Conley gets to the rim time after time, Tony/Hill get their shots blocked left and right.Our offense is the worst part yet, Stupid silly man Popovich, cant seem to be able to draw anything up to get some our guys open. Its amazing that Tony gets in the paint and is met by 5 guys and he doesn’t kick the ball out. We really need some athleticism, I don’t want to see Bonner/Blair next year, I have seen enough of Bonner to know he sucks, but Popovich must have a man crush on these 2. Tony has the biggest disappointment this postseason. He can’t shoot period. I have said it before, when we play good defensive teams and we cant get in the paint, we wont be able to do anything because we don’t have any shooters. Amazingly, RJ has been pretty darn good this postseason, but only took 4 shots yesterday. The other issue, FT shooting, as soon as TD missed his first 2, I knew we were in for a long night.

    Its been a terrific season, but this is a mediocre playoff team coached by a guy who doesn’t seem to give a crap anymore, and players who lack some balls.

  • DorieStreet

    Don’t lump the current series circumstance all on “so many new and young players to the system”. Butler hasn.t been a Spurs a month and doesn’t have a uniform; Anderson basically has been injured all year; and except for the stretch of games when Duncan was out and the last road trip, Splitter has been a DNP-CD since mid-January (he played more in the 1st 2 months of the season).
    Neal had blossomed in his role and was a significant factor in our guard-orientation system getting to the top of the west, but his shot has left him since mid-March.

    This is Hill’s 3rd year and Blair’s 2nd with the team. After having filled in as a starter for a good stretch last season, why is his game inconsistent now? And you would think after starting most of the season, Blair would have eliminated many mistakes and bad decisions he continually makes in the games where he is not overmatched because of his height.

    Hill, Blair, Neal—that’s only 3 of the 9 players that are part of the playoff rotation. The other 6 guys….one reserve just completed his 5 th year with the team–Bonner. The remaining 5 have been in the league for a decade-plus each, and 3 have played together for 9 seasons as Spurs—but we have seen all of their games deteriorate since mid-March….and where is their playoff gear/mojo?

    And….this ain’t some perennial playoff contender the Spurs are struggling with. Besides
    Battier, Randolph, and Allen, the Grizz are a roster of players with 4 years experience and less.

  • idahospur

    This team looks too worried about what Memphis is doing and forgetting that they can step it up and dominate on their own game. Duncan has stretches where he has that winning desire but someone needs his back when Memphis puts the pressure on him.

    Hope Dice gets better. If not Blair should start but Splitter should finish with Duncan. Splitter doesn’t need offensive contributions, a few lay-ups here and there will work.

  • DorieStreet

    It’s more like they will lose this series if this sort of play continues. It’s not injuries, or fatigue. It’s the bad decisions and poor execution.

    And fans, please—let’s stop with the refs being a factor on this situation. The Spurs are getting “their fair share of calls” –and the sqaud is coming up short in that department too– 25 missed free throws (11,6 and 8). That has got to stop.

  • Jland10

    Guys the spurs time has come and gone in 2 to 3 yrs it will be time to rebuild. The grizz are just a better or at least better suited for the playoffs. Good luck and go grizz

  • DorieStreet

    They are rebuilding now. Hill was the start of it 3 drafts ago, then Blair (but he needs to work very, very hard this offseason). Splitter (should have been in uniform 2 years ago), Anderson, Green and Butler. And any free agents that are signed this summer won’t be veterans with more than 6 seasons in the league.

  • REDALERTON20S

    *** OMG ANYONE TALKING ABOUT TONY PARKER***

    HE SUCKS THIS WHOLE PLAY OFF SERIES, HEAD UP HIS ASS, TURN OVERS, HITS ONLY 1 FREE THROW EVERYTIME AT THE LINE, CANT KNOCK DOWN A SHOT, WHERE IS HE?

    I AM A DIE HARD FAN BUT HIS LACK OF EFFORT IS UP SETTING, WATCH HIM HE NOT EVEN SWEATING IN THE GAME!!!

    ALSO TIM NEEDS MORE TOUCHES DOWN LOW, DID ANYONE SEE HE GOT THE BALL LIKE 2WICE IN THE 4TH, HES TOO BUSY SETTING HALF ASS SCREENS FOR ALL THE GUARDS, THAT STILL CANT EVEN PENETRATE INTO THE LANE… I UNDERSTAND ITS TOUGH GETTING IN THE LANE WITH GASOL, AND RANDOLPH, BUT LET TIMMY POST UP GASOL WHICH WILL BRING A DOUBLE TEAM, AND FREE UP THE PERIMETER SHOOTERS…

    BUT OMG TONY GET UR HEAD OUT OF UR ASS PLEASE….

  • Len

    For all the boneheaded plays, lack of execution, terrible shooting and horrid coaching, remember this one thing. If the Spurs can pull their stuff together and win game 4, than it will be a best of 3 series with the Spurs having HCA. Go Spurs Go

  • midwestfan

    Do you think Tonys struggled have to do with the divorce from Eva. The last 6 years we have gotten accustomed to seeing eva at the games espeacially playoff games. And maybe without the love and support from a wife, win or lose or kids to take your mind and stress off basketball is difficult. Manu echoed this sentiment how his wife and twin boys eases his mind away from basketball. Maybe? thats the only difference I can think of between this season and previous.

  • Dr. Who

    I just want to keep the replies going till we get to 1pt. Font. Bruno, I’m in ur corner. I think Blair brings great energy but Tiago played very solid D when Timmy went out. Blazers and Lakers games were solid against very good bigs. Blair has lots of hustle but he’s more of a Malik Rose 2.0 than Barkely 2.0. You can’t coach height and Tiago’s got that; plus quick feet to pick up charges. Blair will have his moments like he did in one of the LA games, but he’s ne’er dominated a game. At least we all agree Bonner shouldn’t be seeing meaningful minutes; aside from spot stretch 4 minutes for spacing.

  • badger

    Bruno, I think you are completely correct. Those of us who think Splitter should be on the court (at least with the matchups we see in Memphis) do not generally think Splitter is a perfect solution for all that ails the Spurs. Nor should Splitter be more than a 20 minute per game choice most games. However, the guy can body up, he’s a good passer, he’s a solid rebounder, he’ll get 8-10 points without a lot of crazy shots, and he can slow the Ranpolph-Gasol express. Bonner’s 3 is a joke in the post season,as we know after watching several episodes of “Matt Bonner Chokes”, starring the Red Rocket himself.

  • spursalltheway

    i hate when in the low post the defensive player just falls down trying to take a charge leaving the guy for a easy lay in. the risk/reward is not worth it, offensive fouls liek that are baerly called unless its a blatant elbow or something. i saw this happen twice in the highlights alone

  • spursalltheway

    I wouldn’t go as far to say that. There’s a reason why they ended up with 46 wins (48 since they tanked). Yes, we are not the best fit for them in the frontcourt, but we are better then them in the backcourt with parker/gino. We have just been unlucky with manu being injured, tony being fisher which has disrupted our whole offense. we need manu to be healthy if were goign to win a championship and tony to be tony if we wean to win 3 of the next 4 games

  • Titletown99030507d

    Everybody knows Splitter can score more than Blair, can defend better than Blair, can make more shots under the rim than Blair, can make it harder on bigs to shoot over him than Blair, and is smarter than Blair on the court, and has energy as well! Accept it Blair sucks in this series. 1 rebound 4 points? Splitter can do waaaay better and you know it. I’m speaking in terms of who can make a deference of the bench right now and not posting up a bunch oof bullshit about Blair because you love him and he’s your shorty. Get it over it you don’t make sense. He can suck again in game 4 and you’ll be up here posting all kinds of ridiculous crap about how much energy he brings. LOL enough of the jokes. Stop making excuses for an incompetent center. He aint no center by the way. What a Blair Homer.

  • Titletown99030507d

    There’s a lot of points not being made between Blair and Bonner in this series night in and night out. And yet those two take up tons of minutes and bring no defense to the table when the night is done. So why then are they on the court that long? That’s what’s killing this team. Month’s after the season is over people’s emotions will settle down and then they will come to their normal senses and reflect on the playoffs and say “you know Blair and Bonner really did suck, we need to do something about it”. Right TDBE? I love posting about Blair because it’s all true and sane people who really know and actually watch the games will agree. There will be changes next season just wait and see. I’d trade Blair for someone who can score and rebound.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Are you really TDBE with the handle Ryan? Your crazy dude Splitter is a liability? That is a stupid statement. Get off the crack or what ever they do these days. How f**kin worse can Splitter do than Blair? 1 frikin rebound? Are you for real? First watch the games, 2nd read the box score particularly the points made and rebounds made in the total minutes played that’s what matters. And you wonder why it’s close every game. There’s no significant production comming out of neither and yes that also means Blair for you Blair homers. SHEEEEZ man are you delirious? Blair doesn’t belong on the court not now not ever. What a waste of a position and minutes played by this bozo combo.

  • Titletown99030507d

    I agree that stupid look on Pop’s face is getting old. And yes they are coaching gods to some homers but only when they have 26 year old Superstars on their rosters after that they want to quit for fear of being exposed as mediocre. And that’s what Pop will be when Timmy is done. It might be rearing it’s ugly head sooner than he wants. Timmy can’t carry the load by himself.

  • Titletown99030507d

    But you kind of need Bonner in there to tip in Blair’s misses.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Yeah he’s loosing it alright, he’s playing Blair in this series. Ouch!

  • Titletown99030507d

    That’s why I just look at points made, rebounds made, minutes played for a big. That’s it there isn’t any other way to spin it. Right TDBE?

  • Titletown99030507d

    Man that’s a real eye opener and so true.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Give them a couple of years and you might be right.

  • Titletown99030507d

    How have most teams faired in the playoffs when the the bigs have had the bulk of the points and rebounds on a consistent basis. Did it not open it up for their shooters? My guess the majority of these teams went on to win titles. So why are we playing small ball for long stretches of the game. I include Blair in small ball. That aint working. And I’m also embarrassed. People need to pay attention to the games a little better and realized the so called energy Blair brings doesn’t net you any significant points or production to warrant a game changer. I’m tired of hearing Sean’s big mouth spewing all kinds of excuses for Blair when he gets waxed and how great he is when all you have to do is look at the frikin box score. I don’t listen to idiot homers. I watch games with my own eyes.

  • Titletown99030507d

    I said it before the series started if Splitter doesn’t get on the court and help out Timmy this series is going 7? And any thing can happen in game 7 if your the visitor. Hard pill to swallow but this reality. Hell it could end sooner in their favor if this continues and nothing will be left but the crying.

  • Betsy Duncan

    Right on, Jesse. Summed up beautifully. “Milk carton”, indeed!

  • Betsy Duncan

    I agree, Junierizzle. Bonner seems to have a fear of failing, and as someone once said, “You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

  • Betsy Duncan

    Putting in Novak, Anderson and Splitter would be like ‘surrendering’. You go with the ones that brung ya. I think every player needs to do some deep soul-searching and ask themselves if they really want to go to the ‘Big Dance’. Offensive and defensive execution is what it’ll take. No more, no less.

  • Betsy Duncan

    Other than your comment about horrid coaching, I agree with your analysis, Len.
    Let’s keep hope alive!

  • Bigperm01

    Rocking spacing!!! Can’t even see this as I type!!!

  • http://profiles.google.com/lordxar Ray Briggs II

    I think more than a few items belong on the Milk Carton
    Hill: 10/26 FG 3/9 3PT (But at least he is getting to the line)
    Bonner: 5/11 FG 3/9 3PT
    Neal: 8/23 FG 3/10 3PT
    Pop: No time, not even a few minutes to Novac or Green to see if they can help the Spurs shooting woes. Can’t give Novac 10 of the minutes that RJ and Bonner are out there wasting for ONE game to see if he can hit a threes?
    Offensive Execution: Spurs just look sluggish and off their game from tip to end of game almost. Making Memphis’ D look like the Celtics.
    I would like to think something will shake out for Game 4. Parker, Bonner or Neal will come alive. Or this could get ugly, fast.

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