MEMPHIS — Like Tuesday, Game 3 of the Western Conference finals went to overtime. And like Tuesday, the Spurs controlled the extra session and beat the Grizzlies 104-93. San Antonio now leads the series 3-0. Game 4 is Monday in Memphis.
Here are three observations from a rare Memphis loss at the Grindhouse, where Memphis will now have to grind harder than ever to beat a team that doesn’t look as old as people say they are:
1. The Spurs may not have the biggest three, but it’s a pretty good three
Memphis isn’t making a living scoring lots of points, but its defense has bailed it out over and over.
San Antonio is a different animal — a veteran Big Three that might not get as much attention as the Heat’s, but does as much damage. And the Grizzlies haven’t found much damage control in this series.
Tony Parker may be the main terror all series, but in Game 3 the three old pros left no doubt they were in it together.
The first quarter was all Memphis, and apparently all Memphis had. An 18-point lead was systematically erased.
“They started taking care of the ball, moving the ball a little bit better. We didn’t have that same kind of pressure, same kind of havoc that we needed to sustain a big lead,” Memphis point guard Mike Conley said.
Parker had 26 points and five assists. Manu Ginobili scored 19 with five rebounds and seven assists. There was nothing the Grizzlies could do about Tim Duncan in overtime, again.
For the second straight game, Duncan controlled the overtime period with seven points to match the Grizzlies total OT output. He finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
“He feels a responsibility to carry us in those kinds of times,” Popovich said. “He did it again tonight. I don’t know what else to say. He was fantastic.”
Ginobili was asked after the game if he gets tired of hearing how old the Spurs are. With a grin: “Yeah, it gets old. We’ve been old for probably eight years,” Ginobili said.
2. Defensive intensity is great, but the Grizzlies have to make some shots, too
Memphis came out of the gate in Game 1 in such a frenzy that it ran past the ball more than running to it. That hyperactivity was similar in the first quarter Saturday, but much more controlled and much more effective.
Then it fizzled for a rare home loss, only the second here since Feb. 8.
Conley had five of the Grizzlies’ seven steals in the first quarter. But as the Spurs got in a groove, they made shots. Memphis did not and had three steals the rest of the way. The Spurs went 4 of 19 in the first quarter, then shot nearly 60 percent the rest of the way.
It was the same song for Memphis this series: floor spacing.
“We couldn’t contain the pick-and-roll,” Memphis center Marc Gasol said. “They spread the floor. The big was running by himself every time. It’s painful to watch.”
Memphis can’t find a complete enough game to beat San Antonio. It was good underneath the basket, just not above it. Power forward Zach Randolph had nine of Memphis’ 19 offensive rebounds. Nineteen offensive rebounds, but only 21 second-chance points. Meanwhile, more efficient San Antonio had 13 boards and 20 points off them.
The been-there, done-that Spurs are doing it again and the green Grizzlies better figure out how to if they want at least one more meal on the River Walk.
“The first half I was grandfatherly. The second half I was ugly. Because I wasn’t going to watch it again,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
It was Memphis coming back from a big deficit in Game 2 and losing in overtime. In Game 3 it was San Antonio coming back from 18 down — the reserves doing the dirty work — and winning in overtime, as the Grizzlies again failed to do enough to win.
3. Prep, college or pro, it’s all about the fundamentals
Memphis is really good at a lot of things, a lot of small things as well. Free-throw shooting has not been one of them in the postseason.
“There’s a lot of little things we didn’t do that decided this game at the end,” Conley said. “They outlasted us and executed down the stretch.”
Nowhere is that more evident than at the free-throw line, where Memphis hit only 10 of 18, and missed big ones down the stretch. Randolph was 4 for 8. Conley even missed the back end of one in overtime with Memphis down four. Parker then scored on the other end to all but end the game.
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins danced around the question after the game. He was asked if he’d ever seen a team that shot free throws well in the regular season struggle so badly in the postseason.
“I’ve seen all kinds of stuff, teams that shoot 50 percent during the season don’t shoot 50 percent during the playoffs,” Hollins said. “I’ve seen players that shoot 80 percent don’t shoot 80 percent. Playoff basketball is different than the regular season. You can’t rely on all of that. We’ve been fortunate to get this far and we have to play better.”