So you took the Spurs to overtime. Twice, even. That must have felt good, that fleeting moment when beating the San Antonio Spurs seemed like a realistic proposition. We’ve all had that feeling. Maybe you were in high school and fouled off a couple pitches from the kid who got drafted. Maybe you were in college got a number from somebody out of your league. Remember that time you were speeding and the cop saw you and you totally almost got away?
The Memphis Grizzlies are not in the same class as the San Antonio Spurs. I am not telling you anything that isn’t obvious. San Antonio leads the Western Conference Finals three games to none, having wiped out the Grizzlies 104-93 in overtime Saturday in Memphis. No NBA team has ever overcome a 3-0 hole.
There is something annoying about this, I have to admit. It’s nothing against the Spurs, who are great. There is nothing inherently unlikable about the Spurs. They’re great players who play for a great coach and are managed by a great organization. They basically never screw up, and that’s what’s annoying. They’re like that kid you went to school with that got all As, was president of the student body, played shortstop on the baseball team and dated the prettiest girl. There is nothing unlikable about them, and that’s what makes you not like them.
But they are not going anywhere yet. One of these days they will. One of these days the San Antonio Spurs as we know them will be no more. But today is not that day, and neither is tomorrow.
Two years ago, this same basic Memphis Grizzlies team took out the Spurs in the playoffs, and that seemed like some kind of a signal. Overall, the Spurs are not all that old, but their best players are. Tim Duncan is 37, Manu Ginobili is 35, Tony Parker is 31. This group is not long for this world, but no matter what you think you know, no matter what happened two years ago, no matter who is defending the other basket, the Spurs are still doing all those Spurs things they always do.
You know what Duncan did Saturday, that old man? Twenty-four points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks.
It ain’t over yet.
And you know what? Memphis played great Saturday. Memphis had energy. Memphis led the game 16-5, then 24-9, then 29-13 at the end of the first quarter. The Grizzlies were at home, and they had all the energy and all the momentum and for a while there the Spurs kind of looked … not shell-shocked, because the Spurs never look that way. But they looked like they took a punch they weren’t expecting. It looked like, Whoa, these guys actually CAN win.
Except they can’t.
They can’t because the Spurs don’t really care what Memphis does, because they know they have an answer for all of it. The Spurs have taken Memphis’ best player out of the series, same as they did against the Golden State Warriors last series. Zach Randolph has 31 points in the series. In the series. Saturday night was his best game, and he went 5-for-14. If it was true that Randolph was a star player who could not be held down for an entire series, he would have been not held down by now. The Spurs took him out, and Memphis had no answer.
Memphis’ big answer was to come out with a lot of energy in Game 3, and that worked for a while. Mike Conley had five steals in the first quarter, Gregg Popovich was griping about San Antonio’s eight first-quarter turnovers and it looked like maybe this was Memphis’ ticket. Maybe Memphis, playing in Memphis, could ride the wave. Maybe it could just overwhelm these old Spurs, maybe it could get that number.
And it did, for a while. Took it to overtime.
And then … well, you call the number and what happens? We’re sorry, but this number is no longer in service.