That one play


Watch the play over and over, it doesn’t change. Manu Ginobili still gets sucked in towards the lane. Conley still kicks the ball out to Shane Battier in the corner. Ginobili still doesn’t close out. Battier still drains the shot.

The worst part about it? It wasn’t an elaborate, confusing play. The Grizzlies simply executed better than the Spurs, and were more disciplined, things you could say about this entire series at this point.

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley runs a pick-and-roll with center Marc Gasol. Again, nothing fancy, and Gasol doesn’t set much of a pick on George Hill.

Tim Duncan occupies the middle ground between preventing Conley from getting to the basket and keeping an eye on Gasol. Hill, who hasn’t had a good series and, again, wasn’t actually picked by Gasol, doesn’t defend Conley aggressively.

So Conley goes right to the basket. Manu Ginobili, marking Battier in the corner, gets sucked inside to prevent Conley from finding Gasol on the opposite block for a close-range attempt. Conley, recognizing this, fires a pass out to Battier in the corner.

At this point, it’s all somewhat acceptable. You’d like Hill’s effort to be greater in getting back in front of Conley and prevent the drive, what with Gasol not making any contact with Hill on the pick and all, but maybe you can justify Hill being out of position.

Same with Manu, he’s making a smart basketball play in a sense. If Gasol gets that ball on the block, with Duncan not in position to defend, it’s two points for Memphis. Simple as that.

But then it all comes crashing down. All the reasoning is out the window. Conley’s pass goes out to Battier in the corner, the sweet spot for Shane and the majority of the NBA. The pass is off target and Battier has to pick it up off his left foot. No worries, there’s still time. He makes sure the seams are comfortable in his hand and fires away.

Manu Ginobili, the fire that the Spurs’ engine burns from, didn’t close out. When the pass when out to Battier he stopped. I doubt he would’ve had much of an effect on the shot if he had, Battier is money from the corner and Ginobili had a ways to go, but it’s not about that. It’s about the effort. Unfortunately, it wasn’t there on that play, and that play just happens to be one big, glaring example.

Popovich calls a timeout and Memphis goes nuts. When we come back from the timeout, Steve Novak and Danny Green are in the game for the Spurs. That’s the ballgame. As Graydon said in his recap, if the key cogs aren’t going to close out in the fourth quarter, there’s no reason for them to be out there.

If this is the end of the Spurs’ run as championship contenders — you know, once and for all — you’d hope they would leave fans with a better lasting image. One of Manu Ginobili barely getting out of the paint to run down a 3-point shooter is not a memory reflective of the Tim Duncan Dynasty.

  • TheRealDirtyP1

    That just summarizes the difference between these two teams. They can get seperation, the Spurs can’t. They could have gone to Allen or Battier on that. It wasn’t a hard shot for Battier to hit either. How many times did we see Bowen bury those shots in the past? This defense is head scratching, but what it comes down to is they’re just not big enough in the middle and they’re collapsing to help too much.


    They kicked our butts all game long not just on this play.

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  • ProjectGSX

    Im so glad I had turned the game off before that point. What a sad display from the Spurs.

  • DBAGuy

    Bonner would have missed that shot!!!

  • JD

    I agree. Watching the game, this was the point where I thought we had genuinely given up. No one closed out, no one even took a step in that direction. I agree with some of the previous posts that Popovich has been outcoached in this matchup. You could see Lionel Hollins learn from Popovich’s tactics from Game 1. Pop called a timeout to set up a play right before the half….Hollins has done that every game since then they’ve had the last possession before half. Hearing what Hollins said to his players last night as well, it was clear that the Grizzlies were hungrier than the Spurs.

    I don’t question the plays we’re calling, but the lineups we’re using. Why not overload the paint with Parker, Ginobili, Blair, Duncan, and McDyess when Randolph and Gasol are playing together? Why not be the more physical, wily veteran team like the Celtics? Show the Grizzlies what playoff basketball means. Why not play Splitter for the first three games, he’s got size and fouls we need? Shouldn’t someone tell Duncan that he has to play faster and instead of running plays where he posts up and people run off of him, run more high pick and rolls?…Duncan’s got more dunks this series than I’ve seen all season when they run the pick and roll. Our supporting cast didn’t have any confidence to shoot. I saw RJ, Bonner, and everyone else besides Tiago passing up open shots, too worried another clanker would careen off the rim.

    Let’s hope the Spurs put Game 5 in perspective of their careers. They don’t have many more chances at a championship that will be a better setup than this year’s playoff run coming in as the #1 seed.

  • Junierizzle

    I’ve been saying it ain’t over til it’s over. But this is the play that takes away any hope of a miraculous come back. This play means if there only down by 1 in the fourth they’re going to pack it in.

    Personally I think Manu not running out was out of frustration, not necessarily giving up. But I guess it’s the same thing.

  • Rob

    So many break downs on the defensive end and not just from Ginobili. Agreed with not being big enough in the middle and collapsing too much. But, this Grizzlies team was one of the worst 3 point shooting and defending teams in the league. Now they look to be one of the best. I never thought I would see this Spur’s team become this discombobulated.

    It will truly be a miracle if they can fight their way through this. The bear is hungry after a long hybernation….it’s first prey appears to be old men and young boys who can’t defend themselves. Will someone from this team have the ability to man up against such a ferocious appetite?

    Go Spurs Go!!!

  • Gmaurino

    hill was sooo lazy there. Duncan and Neal had to close the road. Manu had had Gasol- Conley going for a reverse layup and Battier…It’s just the collapse of team defense.

  • Toroc102

    I knew which play you were talking about before I clicked the link, just off of watching the highlights from Inside the NBA. Normally I would be disgusted, but this time I’m not, maybe we speak to early, but it just seems like that was the Tim Duncan Era death rattle. One of the big three is going to get traded during or before the next season, don’t know if it’ll be TP or Manu, I”d like to see them on new teams anyway, both are still going to have their jerseys retired by the Spurs and both will still be respected by San Antonio. I personally would like to see Manu go to Chicago and TP go to Orlando.

  • DorieStreet

    I had a long day and decided to take a nap & overslept. After going over the recap and 48moh comments, I did not watch any game “lowlights” last night or today until that replay just now.
    Even though it was sort of painful, you got to credit TNT with that black & white image of the Core 3 and the coach with the caption “The Last Roundup?”. A homage, sort of. to what the Spurs have accomplished the last decade-plus.

  • DorieStreet

    I could see Manu play two seasons more here then retire and help keep basketball thriving and successful in his native Argentina (coaching, perhaps?). Bulls have Rose to lead their quest to add more titltes to thier franchise–I don’t see a fit for him there. Same with Tony in Orlando–he does not do anything that elevates him over Nelson–their stats are basically the same. (An odd aside—Jameer is 4 months older than Tony, but TP has been a pro twice as long.)

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  • DorieStreet

    McNeill, you should have referred to this post as “That One Play – Redux” -linking it to your previous 48moh review– “So, what happened on that Shane Battier 3-pointer?”. Both occur in the 4th quarter, but compare the circumstances:

    Game 1
    Shane Battier hits a 25-foot 3pt, shot (off a Mike Conley lane drive & kickout assist) with a 23 seconds left in the 4th quarter to regain a 1 point lead. This is after the Spurs came from 7 points down with less than 4 minutes left to lead by 4 with a minute to go.
    Game 4
    Shane Battier hits a 23-foot 3pt. shot (off a Mike Conley lane drive & kickout assist) with 6 halfway through the 4th quarter to extend a double-digit lead on the Spurs that had existed since the last minute of the 3rd quarter–a steady buildup from 11 to 20 points.

    The Game 1 shot was a “dagger of definance” — the playoff newcomer snatching a opening-series win and letting the experienced team know they were not there to celebrate arriving in the playoffs, but were there to compete and advance.

    The Game 2 shot was a “dagger of dominance” — a last defining blow of many by the Grizzlies that had eroded first the knowhow, then the will, the resolve, and finally the heart of the Spurs to wher their past success was simply that–PAST success– that has no bearing on the present matchup.

  • Len

    Sadly, dynasties don’t end with glorious plays that just come up an inch short. Dynasties end when things get ugly. Players and coaches start feeling entitled. I’ve seen it happen in Boston, LA, Detroit and Chicago before. It’s painful for the fans and joyous for the enemies. The guard changes, the game goes on.

  • Teeceezy

    I’ve observed this blog from a distance, but now I think I need to make my first comment. I am a lifetime Laker fan. My relationship as a fan to the Spurs has usually been an icy one. As the millennium turned, I hated the Spurs. In fact I’d go as far to say that up until about 2008 I really hated the Spurs. But as a basketball fan, I always had respect for them. It goes without saying, at least in my somewhat biased opinion, that outside of Kobe & Phil, Timmy and Pop were the greatest winners of this era of basketball. Their consistency, intelligence, intensity and passion stood out amongst the snake pit that is the NBA. While a cynical part of me would usually feel mildly amused by what seems like inevitable arrival of the final dagger in this era of Spurs basketball, I am instead heartbroken. It feels somewhat like my Lakers and your Spurs were the last remnants of the old guard, and rather than viewing the Spurs seemingly impending elimination as a triumph in survival, I feel as a Laker fan that we are now doomed to loneliness as we inevitably deteriorate. It’s like seeing an old friend die almost. I know that this series isn’t over yet, and I am not trying to count out the heart of this Spurs team, but if this is the end of this Spurs dynasty, my heartfelt sympathies are with the Spurs and all their fans right now.

  • Varner


    There is a weird feeling in the air, no doubt. But my optimism is starting to swell. It’s only three games. The Spurs can pull this out.

  • badger

    I agree that Manu has a couple more seasons in him, especially with his love for the game and his passing/shooting still being first rate. However, with the kidnapping threats and chaos that seems to be the norm, I’d bet Manu and his wife choose to raise their family right here in SA, or at least somewhere in the U.S. I read that Manu is so famous in Argentina that he has bodyguards for all of his immediate family that are still there and they have been threatened several times.

  • Hurm66

    Call me crazy, but I don’t think that play was anything more than “this game is over”. The Spurs tried to simply outplay the Grizzlies and for a half it worked. Then there was a third quarter meltdown and they had all the energy and adrenaline. Some Grizzlies players were making shots they don’t normally make. They were running downhill.

    Here’s the thing: it’s not easy to close out a series. The Grizzlies know this. This is where their inexperience will come out. If the Spurs win tonight – you will see a very different team in Game 6. A nervous, young Grizzlies team. I think Conley spoke a little too confidently in the immediate high after the game and seeing Gasol applaud the fans like the series was over was a mistake. Game 4 was an anomaly.

    The Spurs came back from 3-1 against a better than Memphis Dallas team and should have won that series. They got punked by the Hornets and still won in seven (on the road). If Pop gets his head right – the shots fall and the players hustle, they will rattle the young Grizzlies.

    Win tonight and it’s a brand new ballgame folks.

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  • Anonymous

    This site used to be great, it stinks now!! I’m not talking about the writers or the people posting here but the site it’s self is a bad design. How are the colors in the heading’s logo supposed to say “48 Minutes of Hell” with those colors? Please admit the disign stinks and go back to what worked for years.