If you found yourself dreaming at the beginning of the playoffs that maybe, just maybe the Memphis Grizzlies could not only get their first franchise win but possibly even do the unthinkable – knock off the number one seeded San Antonio Spurs – it’s time to wake up.
After Monday night’s thrashing of the Spurs at home, 104-86, the Grizzlies find themselves only one win away from becoming only the fourth team to pull the colossal eight-seed over one-seed upset in NBA history and only the second to accomplish the feat in a best of seven series. The Grizzlies have gone from threatening to commanding.
What was most surprising on this night was not that the Grizzlies got the victory, but with what relative ease it took to get it, namely in the second half. Tony Parker led the charge for the Spurs in the first half, going 7-of-7 from the field and getting to the rim at will. The Spurs took a 50-48 lead into the break and it didn’t appear that anything was going to slow Parker down.
But the Grizzlies burst through the gate to open the second half, scoring the first 14 points of the third quarter. Memphis went on to outscore the Spurs 30 to 15 in that quarter and never took their collective foot off the gas.
Everyone was a contributor. Mike Conley led Memphis in scoring with 15 and reserve Darrell Arthur chipped in 14 points in 17 minutes. Tony Allen had a gutty 12 points. Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo added 11 apiece and the Grizzlies bench combined for 49 points compared to the Spurs starters who only tallied 47 points.
And the most impressive statistic of the night? Memphis held Tim Duncan to six points. You read that correctly. The All-NBA, first-ballot Hall of Famer was taken away by the combination of Randolph and Marc Gasol, never factoring into the game.
The Defense. Memphis simply clamped down on San Antonio in the second half, allowing only 36 points after giving up 50 in the first half. Parker was silent after the break and also committed seven turnovers for the game. Manu Ginobili was held in check all night, being hounded by Allen and Shane Battier. Ginobili could only muster 14 points on 5 for 13 shooting. And as noted earlier, Duncan was a non-factor. Throw in 17 Spur turnovers and it adds up to a very ordinary offense evening.
The Offense. The Grizzlies were playing like a finely-tuned piano offensively, moving the basketball and finding open shots nearly every possession. Conley took care of the ball, only turning it over once. In fact, the Grizzlies only turned the ball over eight times as a team. Randolph and Gasol controlled the paint while Arthur, Allen, and Battier made shots from the perimeter. Even Greivis Vasquez got into the act, going 4 for 4 with nine points and running the offense efficiently while Conley sat down. The Grizzlies overall assist to turnover ratio was 22-8.
The Grizzlies find themselves on historic ground. If they win one more game they’ll join the 2007 Golden State Warriors as the only number eight seed to upset a number one seed in a best of seven series. Before this series began, many hoped. Now those hopes have turned into an expectation of reaching the second round of the NBA playoffs. No more dreaming. This is reality.