Spurs avoid collapse, survive nearly fatal error

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The San Antonio Spurs didn’t score a single point over the final 4:18 of the fourth quarter in Tuesday night’s 93-89 overtime win over Memphis, and the Grizzlies clawed their way through a 15-2 comeback run and sucked the oxygen from the AT&T Center. The visitors were stout defensively over the final eight minutes of regulation, but while Tony Allen writhed in pain and held his head with 26 seconds remaining in the final frame, it was a moment of drama that nearly flipped this game upside-down.

With an 85-81 lead in the final 30 seconds, Manu Ginobili turned the ball over all the way out near mid-court and the Grizzlies broke out the other way. Allen took off in front of the pack, and as he climbed through the air and toward the rim, Ginobili reached out from the side, grabbed his left arm and pulled downward. Allen crashed to the ground, and a moment later he grasped his head in apparent agony.

The incident was ruled as a flagrant foul, and two free throws and a bucket later, what was once an 18-point game late in the third had been upended and tied as the teams jumped to the extra frame.

But further discussion would ensue regarding the dramatic nature of Allen’s fall and just how much agony he was actually feeling. The Defensive Player of the Year candidate fell as cleanly as could reasonably be expected, and upon further review didn’t appear to even hit his head on the surface.

Oh, the irony, as Manu stood helplessly next to Gregg Popovich trying to plead his case this time. That it was just a good old-fashioned hard foul. That there was an effort to go after the ball. But all it did was evoke memories of 2006, when Ginobili fouled Dirk Nowitzki in the waning moments during the Western Conference Semifinals in Game 7 at home.

This time, the Spurs survived. Not only that, but they extended their lead in the conference finals, going ahead 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

And, ironically enough again, it was foul trouble that left the door open for the Grizzlies’ comeback. Tim Duncan picked up his second, third and fourth fouls in a period of 30 seconds with just under eight minutes remaining in the third quarter. The infractions forced Pop to put Duncan on the bench for long stretches of the second half, but it might have been a good thing.

When Timmy took a seat after his fourth foul at the 7:51-mark of the third quarter, the Spurs saw their 56-40 lead dwindle to just 78-70 by the time he re-entered early in the last frame. San Antonio would build on their lead once more with their defensive anchor on the floor, pushing it out to 83-70 with 7:36 left in regulation. But Duncan would pick up another foul, his fifth, with 7:36 remaining. He’d have to take a seat, and once again Memphis went on another run. This time it was enough to cut the lead to five points in Duncan’s absence, but even after a questionable sequence regarding the Allen situation.

Regardless of what happened, those four points forced overtime, most likely.

But with the foul trouble, Duncan was fresh. He played only 31 minutes but went for 17 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots, and in overtime he basically saved the night. Timmy scored all three team field goals in the extra fame and gave them the boost they needed when the gas tank went dry.

And it did. The Spurs were gassed, and Tony Parker seemed like he could hardly move at the end of his career-high 18-assist night. After all the big shots were falling through the first three periods, they weren’t going down in the fourth. San Antonio really needed its big man. After all, had the Spurs dropped this game on gone to Memphis tied 1-1, the tension would likely be higher than it was going to Oakland in a similar situation.

We have three days off in between games and we’ve got plenty to talk about, including the wonderful team defense played in San Antonio over the first two games of this series. The fourth quarter gave this one a feel of the series we all thought it might be — physical, low-scoring and hard-nosed — and we’ll have a few days to analyze it all here at 48 Minutes of Hell. So stay tuned.

But for now, take a deep breath, because the oxygen is back. On a night where most players’ legs seemed to be failing them in crunch time, the 37-year-old Duncan made sure the ground didn’t fall out from under his team.


  • Trey

    At end of regulation it was a 2 to 1 ratio FT’s for the VISITING team. A rare thing in the NBA.

  • DorieStreet

    That does not bode well for the Spurs come Saturday night.

  • Colin

    Spurs be ready for match up changes from Grizz.

    –I anticipate Memphis coaching staff to play Bayless and Pondexter more for scoring and increased pace for offensive volume as this is what they did in the 4th last night. In essence, they will have to get away from what they do best to win this series (at least to a degree, they can’t play their usual slow pace)

    –The more shots Memphis gets up means the more opportunities for offensive rebounds and rebounding is what they do best.

    –Spurs need to extend defense on the perimeter on Pondexter, Conley and Bayless when in the game (at least for small stretches).

    –I can even see Grizz going with Conley, Pondexter and Bayless for longer stretches with Gasol and Randolph in the frontcourt (I would if I was them, something has to change). This will change their defense and the Spurs will need to make them pay on the offensive end for playing Bayless and Pondexter more in order for this not to work in Grizz favor.

  • ewhite06

    During that Grizz comeback, they played like the Spurs played all night: drives into the middle by Conley or Bayless who then kick the ball out to the edges for a 3. They effectively out-Spured the Spurs. That and we were tired as hell and TD was riding the pine. It could be very troubling if the Grizz figure this out for the next few games. They would go to a 3 guard lineup with Z-Bo and Gasol underneath. We have been focusing so much on preventing anything inside…now if we have to guard the line it will free up the Grizz bigs.

  • TheFG21

    No.

    You cant do that in this Series (extend defense on the perimeter
    on Pondexter, Conley and Bayless). This is not the Warriors. If MEM wants to
    die in the Perimeter let them be. Spurs have to do what they’re doing until
    now. Guard ZBo and Gasol aggressively, frustrating them and their guards
    normally.

    Our drought out in the 4th wasn’t
    because MEM defense at all. We missed 7-8 WIDE OPEN shots. THAT was the real
    problem. We scored 7 points in the 1st 5mins and only 2 points in
    the last 7mins. For a 21-9 qter. Only 21 points. We didn’t score at all but the
    D was still there making stops.

    It was an awesome game and Im glad it ended
    like that. Wake up call and our bench needs to step up. Btw, I loved how Manu controlled
    the game in the end w/ TP running out of gas. He and Splitter have a particular
    chemistry to run that P/Roll in the paint.

  • http://www.nba.com/spurs/?tmd=1 TheRealDirtyP1

    Yeah I couldn’t agree with you more. I haven’t looked at the shot chart, but it seems Bayless is at his best above the circle out to the wings. I’m thinking they’ll run him off of those shots and make him find other places to go. I’m good with keeping Gasol and Randolph on the perimeter to shoot, but I don’t think the Spurs will be able to as I just can’t see the refs letting us be as physical against them on the road as the Spurs were at home.
    I’m glad we’re winning with Manu struggling with his shot. I’m also glad the Warriors were a tough out, prepared us for the rest of the playoffs. Hollins is a much better coach than Jackson and will adjust, but IMO I think the Warriors have more talent than Memphis, it’s just MEM can play better D and make things ugly.

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

    In both the 3rd and 4th qtr the Spurs were into the penalty by 7 minutes left in qtr. The Grizz didn’t get into that territory until less than 2 minutes. The unbalance of foul calls was obvious for most of 2nd half and it altered the flow of that game.

  • Colin

    Extending the perimeter defense against perimeter threats (like Conley/Pondexter/Bayless) simply means making it tougher to get open looks through picks on and off the ball, initiating the offense for Conley/Bayless and contesting post entry passes from these guys.

    I made no mention of picking guys up at the 1/2 court line a la Curry/Thompson

    Guarding Prince and Allen are different story.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Meh. If they play Bayless on offense, that means they have to play him on offense. I’m happy with that. Bayless and Pondexter didn’t turn this around. The three fouls on Tim did. It’s as simple as that. If he can avoid those sorts of fouls, this series will be over quickly. He and Tiago are causing serious problems for Memphis’ offense and defense and they just don’t have an answer.

  • junierizzle

    I’m calling it, the Grizz just can’t score enough. Their perimeter sucks. The only way they can beat the Spurs are in games like this where the Spurs just can’t score. And it wasn’t the Grizz D. Spurs missed open looks and lay ups. Not to mention Poindexter travelled on his 5 points down the stretch. And Mike Connelly travelled on his game tier but that’s another story.

    Magic Johnson was saying Poindexter and Bayless need to play more. To which I shouted to the TV, “Magic, stop,stop just stop.” You’re telling me Poindexter and Bayless are going to put the Spurs out? They aren’t Durant, Westbrook or Harden so just stop. They haven’t figured anything out. I don’t care how many rebounds Marc and ZBO got because they only put up about 17 and 12 points. There is a reason they get a lot of offensive rebounds, because they put up a ton of bricks. And what young people fail to understand is that this game is and always will be about BUCKETS. And the Grizz can’t score enough. You sawthose threes Bayless and Allen put up.

  • TheFG21

    Specifically that’s why we shouldn’t change our main goal in defense. Our main goal in defense vs MEM is exhaustively guard and frustrate ZBo and Gasol. If they want to put 3 guards in there, let them be and let them play that offensive style. They can sink couple of shots but MEM sucks at that game. They cant make jump-shots at all, or, keep a productive pace based on jump-shots. Their main game is clouding the paint and shoot and shoot in the paint. They’re a better rebounding team so they have an advantage doing that. The problem is that SanAn has a very strong and strict defense system too.

  • Colin

    The first 5 min of that post-game was all about how Grizz now have a chance and are “back” in the series. There was no mention of Spurs essentially dominating all but 8 min of the first 2 games. Bill Simmons should stick to writing books and blogs. I can’t freakin’ stand that guy.

    I’ve pointed this out before but there is obvious media bias going on (although I know this isn’t new for the Spurs).

  • #21GOAT

    The Spurs game plan is to really make it tough for ZBo and Gasol and let anyone else in their team step up.

    As “good” as Memphis played in game 2 with all their adjustments they were still 18 points down late in the 3Q. So, the game plan is working great.

    The struggles in the 4Q of game 2 more than Memphis merits were due to fatigue (Tony, Manu) and foul trouble (Timmy). And even then they had the last shot to win the game in regulation.

    These two games have shown two things:

    1. Memphis defense is not the best in the league UNLESS we can consider the Spurs offense as being unstoppable, which I think is somewhat doubtful.

    2. Memphis is a poor offensive team, when ZBo and Gasol are somehow contained. Which, once again confirms that the games plan is as sound as any game plan Pop can draw.

    I say, the Spurs stick with the same game plan for game 3.

  • TheFG21

    I thought the same thing!! “What did you just say Magic?!?!?” I mean, DUUDE! Like I said…

    “Our drought out in the 4th wasn’t because of MEM defense. We missed 7-8 WIDE OPEN shots. THAT was the real problem. We scored 7 points in the 1st 5mins and only 2 points in
    the last 7mins SHOOTING ALONE. Even shooting like that, the qter ended 21-9. Only 21 points for MEM. We didn’t score but the D was still there making stops.”

  • RG

    I’d really like to see some sort of analysis on how many open 3s we missed, any of which would have essentially ended that game in regulation. Unfortunately, if that analysis isn’t on 48moh, then it’s nowhere as all the major outlets regurgitate the same old BS.

  • Bear

    I agree but just add one more way we could lose would be foul trouble (especially Tim). But overall, if we shoot decent, we won’t have any trouble with the Grizzlies. Like you mentioned, we brought last night’s collapse on ourselves with missing wide open looks (among many others, Kawhi and Bonner combined to miss 3 wide open threes in a row).

    One thing that the TV analysts aren’t getting is that our role players actually have a role. Bonner, Neal, Green etc have to make shots. It’s what they do and they’re good at it. It doesn’t matter if it’s just one shot a game. If Bonner has an open three, he better make it. Other teams role players don’t really have a specific skill. They’re expected to be a poor man’s version of the starting lineup. Pop has done a great job of integrating the bench so no one is expected to do more than what they’re good at. That’s why Tim’s foul trouble was such a problem last night because, for example, we had to rely on Bonner for other things that he’s not good at.

    Stay out of foul trouble and make a respectable percentage of shots and we win this series easily.

  • TheFG21

    Its easy… Falied 3’s in 4th qter:
    TP = tired
    Bonner = put the ball in the ground
    Kawhi = not that clutch player yet
    Manu = they weren’t game buzzers, so, he lost interest

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  • Titletown99030507d

    They are going to give Gasol all the calls. If he can get away with hacking the crap out of Splitter he’s going to have a field day. Refs suck.

  • Titletown99030507d

    They will still lose if they don’t make Gasol and Randolph their game plan first. Without them and relying on 3 pt shots its suicide for them. We would be playing a lesser GSW like team.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Buckets and defense. Ask the Suns about buckets.

  • Titletown99030507d

    First time I saw this guy (simmons) with the rest of the knowledgeable basketball analysts (majic, jalen, and michael), I said to myself who does he know at ESPN?
    His commentary is as bad as mine. The casual fan know as much as he does or makes himself sound like it.

  • Titletown99030507d

    And Timmy’s foul trouble.

  • junierizzle

    The D goes without saying but you still need buckets. Grizz are trying to win on sheer D. But it still applies to the Suns, they obviously didn’t get enough buckets.

  • td4life

    Simmons success has been based entirely on his unique voice which comes through (to say the least) in his writing style. He’s a lifelong Celtics’ season ticket holder and has watched the game closely for decades. It’s not a case of “who he knows”, but the fact that he has a huge (and well deserved) fan base. He is like the opposite of an AP sportswriter: he’s opinionated, honest, and hilarious.

    That said, I can’t take much more of this guy. Once he moved out to LA, he’s been brainwashed by the local interests, he’s become one more guy who CANNOT SHUT UP about those big market teams. It’s exhausting to listen to. His biggest fault has always been that he’s like a dog with a bone, when he has an opinion he just gnaws on it without end. As it stands, since he’s lost faith in SAS as a postseason team (based on recent history), he just can’t let that bias go and see this post-season objectively.

  • DorieStreet

    Don’t forget Randolph–his two hands always on a Spurs big going up for a shot.

  • DorieStreet

    And keep the buckets coming from all directions. Two games in a row all five starters score in double-digits. That continues in game 3, along with Ginobili and Bonner/Neal chiming in—–too much scoring for MEM to overcome.

  • GCinMem

    Oh, it did? How’d that phantom 3rd foul call on conley in the second quarter affect the game? Oh that’s right, the spurs went on a 15-3 run to end the half. Don’t blame the foul calls, the grizz missed enough FTs to make that a complete non-factor.

  • STIJL

    Agree. Spurs don’t need to change their defensive philosophy. It’s worked thus far. The reminder should be the Spurs were playing gassed by the 4th quarter. It wasn’t that Memphis was making such good adjustments more so than the Spurs were playing exhausted. Hence Duncan and his “fresh” legs for overtime. Memphis had no answer for that as they were too exhausted by that time.

  • STIJL

    This was one of those typical games where the Spurs played until they were physically enable to do what they proven to do when they are fresh. It happened in the GS series and likely to repeat simply because of the nature of the age of their top players combined with the inexperience of their role players.

    But they play so great when exhaustion isn’t a factor that I don’t think this struggle of this game is an indicator of what’s to come.

    If they can some how maintain a consistent flow, a deeper concentration in these moments of fatigue, these types of games will end in a Spurs victory without going into overtime.

    I’m at least thankful it ended in a Spurs victory.

    2 and 0 going to Memphis is better than 1&1 going into Memphis.

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

    Well since they were granted 9 more free throws than the Spurs in that game they just had more opportunities to miss.

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