San Antonio Spurs 110, Memphis Grizzlies 103: Neal before Zod! Spurs survive

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AT&T CENTER–So far as first impressions go, Gary Neal left a hell of an impressive one tonight, rescuing the San Antonio Spurs from the brink of elimation in his first playoff series.

Because of Neal the Spurs will live to see another day, which is a far cry from the impression he left with Manu Ginobili when he first arrived in San Antonio.

“It was mid-September and I was working out and he showed up one day. They told me that this was the new shooter,” Manu Ginobili said. “I’m not lying when I say that I saw him miss the first 20 shots he took. We were playing open gym and he was shooting confidently, but he wasn’t making one.

“Then he got used to playing with us and started feeling slowly that he belonged. And then he started showing us what he’s shown all season long. That was my first impression of him.”

Confidence has rarely been an issue with Neal–who ended a summer league game with a three-pointer in similar fashion–and it took little time for his teammates to find their confidence in him. Neal burst on the scene with the real team for the first time in Mexico City, where the same Manu Ginobili that watched him miss 20 consecutive shots diagrammed a game-winning 3-pointer specifically for Neal.

Early in the regular season he arrived in the regular rotation shortly after draining three free throws to send a November game against the Minnesota Timberwolves into overtime after being fouled on a last second three-point attempt. He has been a fixture since.

“He made a great shot. If you see the whole roster you probably wouldn’t expect the undrafted rookie to take the shot to save us,” Ginobili said. “But he earned it. It’s not that Pop went crazy and made a crazy decision. He knew what was going on.”

Emboldened by Neal’s bravado and given new life, the San Antonio Spurs outscored the Memphis Grizzlies 13-6 in overtime, mostly on the strength of clutch jumper after jumper from Tony Parker, who scored six of his 24 points in overtime.

For the first time all series Tony Parker got the best of his matchup with Mike Conley and the Parker who balanced the Spurs offense with his own scoring endeavors emerged. Nine assists for Parker, who appeared much more patient and in control running the Spurs pick and rolls–especially in the first half.

“[Parker] was huge, that’s the most confidently he’s played in the series,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “We’ve been trying to figure out why he hasn’t been more aggressive, especially with his shot. he’s been hitting that mid-range shot all year long and done a great job of it.

“Tonight he did that and it was a huge help for us and it kept us in a position to win.”

Parker–and the Spurs in general–were much more patient in the first half. Allowing the pick and rolls to develop while keeping their dribble alive in the lane, waiting for Grizzlies defenders to either commit or return to their man before making a decision.

It was enough for a double digit lead through a portion of the first half and yet it was almost not quite nearly enough. After the game a very blunt Manu Ginobili admitted for a fifth consecutive game the Memphis Grizzlies outplayed the San Antonio Spurs.

“I don’t really think that we showed the heart of a champion. We got lucky, it’s the truth,” Ginobili said. “They played better in the second half, they executed down the stretch, and their defense is always tough.

“That overtime was a different story, but we were very close to being on vacation right now.”

And they would be if not for an unlikely sequence of events that pulls the Spurs even with the Grizzlies from Games 1 and 3 in miraculous shots. In similar fashion to Game 1 the Grizzlies broke up a play with less than 10 seconds diagrammed for a game tying three-pointer. Again Memphis got their hands on the ball and lost it only to give up an open shot–this time to Manu Ginobili in the corner.

It was a roller coaster of emotions as the Spurs season hung on a steal that ended up not being a steal to a three-pointer than ended up not being a three-pointer. After official review it was determined that Ginobili’s foot was on the line. Afterward Manu had no idea where his feet were set. You see, he did not even see the rim.

“To tell you the truth I didn’t [think the shot was going in],” Ginobili said. “I didn’t even see the rim. I had Mark [Gasol] on top of me as I was falling out of bounds. I just got lucky. That’s the truth.”

Sometimes that’s the way these playoff games go. Better lucky than good, better Memphis than vacation. Sometimes you miss miss 20 shots in a row, other times you’re breathing new life into your teammates with one quick release.

  • darsh

    omgomgomgomgomg that game was ridiculous. momentum shifter or last gasp?

  • Jeremiah

    I have to admit it was an amazing game. Neal’s defense is sometimes….questionable, but he really came through tonight. That said, Pop is doing some crazy things with the rotation. Bonner with 20 minutes, Splitter with 15, Blair with 0. It’s been said over and over again, but I don’t think Bonner should be playing more than 10 minutes a game. He has no confidence in his shot right now. The whole reason he’s in the game (its not for his efense. That’s right efense. Because Bonner has no D) is to space the floor. But it seems everytime he catches the ball at the 3 point line, he takes 3 or 4 awkward, cringe inducing dribbles towards the lane and passes it to someone else.

    If he’s not going to at least shoot the 3, than Blair and Splitter might as well take his minutes. Their defense is as good or better than Bonner’s, and they might draw some cheap fouls on Gasol and ZBo

  • idahospur

    I watched all of Games 1-4. I never can watch a game where I think elimination of the Spurs can happen. Didn’t even DVR it. Left the house to avoid it. And the Spurs find a way to take one of these close games that Memphis managed to take two earlier. Now, I want to watch the next game but I know I will not.

    GO SPURS GO!!!!

  • TD BestEVER

    I agree 100%….Of every one who played he is the one that gave us the least in the game and in the series so far……….I have no idea how he is getting so many minutes…….POP’s trying to make these wins as hard as possible………..

  • Bob

    Your right about Bonner. He has to shoot confidently if they’re not aggressively closing out. Otherwise let them pay by taking a few dribbles in and getting a midrange jumper. It might even make sense to take a few steps behind the 3 pt line to make the close out harder. That will force the defenders to stick to him or risk giving open 3’s. Novak has a faster release and might be better in that situation. He can also take the few dribbles in and hit the midrange jumper. But not taking advantage of the spacing created breaks the flow of the offense.

  • Dman

    Credit to TP for playing well, especially in OT, he basically carried the Spurs offense during the crucial stretch.

    Notice a few plays where Grizzlies pg switched to pick up Dice on Dice’s pick and roll with TP. Despite the mismatch down low, Parker didn’t seem to pass in to take advantage of the mismatch in the post. Hopefully, they can exploit that next game.

  • Junierizzle

    TP where have you been all series? He was huge in OT. He finally nailed the shots he’s been missing. I wouldn’t say the win changes any momentum but hopefully it gives TP momentum.

  • http://twitter.com/PolterChrist Manu Ginobili

    “the same Manu Ginobili…” is hilarious.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Shifter.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Shifter.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Shifter.

  • Titletown99030507d

    You know TD at this point the way it stands I have to agree also. Bonner just seems to pass off most of his opportunities for that 3 shot. If he doesn’t want to take it than give his minutes to Blair as well as Splitter. At this point it can’t hurt to get more rebounds than not getting any 3 point shots. I wonder if Pop is waiting for Bonner to explode? That is a dangerous game Pop is playing with the team.

  • Pingback: Tiago Splitter opens up Spurs offense with playing time

  • Titletown99030507d

    Your like me I always change the channel when things start to slide then switch back and then like magic they ‘re back on top. It’s only worked twice though so far. But I always go back and watch the entire game rewinding and pausing and breaking down the game for analysis.

  • Rob

    Hopefully that shot was more than just a breath of life but an igniting spark to an entire team to be the better team. Tony certainly played better after that shot.

    Go Spurs Go!!!

  • Titletown99030507d

    I think it does. The team knows it can go in there and win now. By the way they are due. What a nice time to finally get one in Memphis. You have to think mind games are going through some of these Grizz players with no playoff experience and looking at the odds of the Spurs finally getting one at their house and if that happens OMG! That can derail the Memphis machine. If this thing goes back to our house in 7 the wheels could very well come off for Memphis. I did say before the series this thing was going 7 and it would be ours.

  • Anonymous

    Jesse, thanks for getting my profile set up so that I can comment. I have been Jones-ing to get on here and comment since this series started! Neal is a double nutted stud, as my old football coach Spike Dykes used to say…..that dude has freezing cold ice water coarsing through his veins!

  • Anonymous

    First time I have ever completely agreed with you, Titletown! That is the gospel!

  • Junierizzle

    I say shifter too.

  • Bankshot21

    Lost in all of the AMAZING shots was the contortionist lay up by George Hill. That was a thing of beauty.

  • Bankshot21

    Lost in all of the AMAZING shots was the contortionist lay up by George Hill. That was a thing of beauty.

  • Bankshot21

    He still spaces the floor. Plain and simple. The team is aware he needs to be accounted for when they defend us.

  • Rowrbazzle

    I greatly enjoyed the headline to this article.

  • TD BestEVER

    Spacing is overrated when it comes in the form of Bonner…….He needs so much help on D that his Offensive contributions are negated UNLESS he scores better……….

  • gobi

    I remember seeing that game.Manu Ginobili foot wasn’t even on the line.That ended thier season,
    that could have been a NBA ChampionShip for them.This year thier gonna walk out The 2013 NBA Champions.