The Grizzlies erased an 18-point deficit to force overtime, but the Spurs battled back for a 93-89 victory and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals. Game 3 is Saturday in Memphis, where the Grizzlies are 5-0 this postseason. Here are three observations from Game 2.
1. Tony Parker missed his first shot. He then decided to pass, and pass and pass.
The Grizzlies might have escaped from San Antonio with a victory had they found even one answer for Parker. The Spurs’ point man made pass after pass from every spot on the floor on his way to 18 assists. So in two games, Memphis couldn’t stop Parker from scoring or passing. That’s how to lose this series — and lose it quickly.
As the series shifts to Memphis, stopping Parker has to be the focus, or at least stopping him from doing one of the two things he has done to put the Grizzlies in an 0-2 hole.
Getting power forward Zach Randolph going early will be another key. Randolph got off to another rough start, but he did finish with 15 points and 18 rebounds.
In the first six quarters of this series, Randolph was 2 for 18 with zero trips to the free-throw line. He missed two huge free throws at the end of the clincher in the Western Conference semis. Had he made just one of the five he missed Tuesday night, perhaps overtime wouldn’t have been necessary.
2. San Antonio started cold but stayed with the gameplan.
The first quarter ended with a missed shot from Parker at the horn. Marc Gasol had just picked up his third block of the quarter as the Memphis defense tried its best to make up for the 31-point first quarter it allowed Sunday. The Grizzlies held the Spurs to 15 points on 32-percent shooting in the quarter. San Antonio went the final four minutes without a point but led 15-13.
The Spurs stuck with their game and the 3-ball started falling, again. A 12-0 run gave way to a 14-point lead in the second quarter, while Memphis continued to clank shots. San Antonio finished with nine 3-pointers after hitting 14 in the series opener. Memphis hit five from behind the arc.
The Spurs were able to do their thing because they were clear of foul trouble. Even in foul trouble, San Antonio has shown it has plenty of shooters to go around. Memphis isn’t built to withstand foul trouble and sometimes doesn’t have enough shooting to make it through a solid defensive game — much improved from Game 1 — much less against a team shooting 50 percent, as San Antonio still was late in the game.
3. Memphis started cold and warmed up after the hole was too deep.
While the Spurs started cold, the Grizzlies’ offense was even worse. If this pace keeps up, getting this series back to San Antonio for Game 5 is quickly becoming a large question mark. Then again, Memphis was down 0-2 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round and then won the next four.
If there is a moral victory — and this team is three years past moral victories — the comeback is it and the Grizzlies can use all the momentum they can get at this point.
The Grizzlies had four turnovers and shot just 28 percent in the first quarter and 34 percent for the game. Both teams were piling up the bricks in the first half. Memphis piled up a few more and was fortunate to be down by only two after the first quarter. Some of that had to do with the Spurs’ defense, which got two blocks from Tiago Splitter against Gasol and Randolph. The Spurs totaled 12 blocks for the game.
Memphis was forced to try and spark its offense early on without starting point guard Mike Conley. Conley picked up his third foul with 4:26 to play in the half, trailing 33-30. He sat the rest of the second quarter. The impact was immediate, a shot-clock violation with Jerryd Bayless, Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince, Quincy Pondexter and Gasol on the floor. Conley played only eight minutes in the first half. In foul trouble and with a reserve lineup in the game, the only point-blank make late in the half was Gasol’s frustrated foot against the scorer’s table.
It got no worse than when out of a timeout, reserve point guard Tony Wroten got blocked, then badly missed from long range. Then it got worse. Memphis missed seven shots in one possession alone, a series that put Randolph at 1 for 9 from the floor and had his team trailing by 15 at the half after missing their last 14 shots.
The Grizzlies found some sync with Pondexter — who made his case to start over Prince — and Bayless on the floor, but if San Antonio continues to shoot like it has and Memphis continues to play two quarters of offense, Memphis’ run will come to an abrupt end.