Last night’s Memphis Grizzlies vs San Antonio Spurs match-up was one for the ages and the best game of the 2017 Playoffs so far, as Marc Gasol won the game for the Grizzlies with a running, off-balance elbow jumper to break a tie with 0.7 remaining in overtime.
Using the phrase ‘best game of the playoffs so far’ is not something I throw around lightly. After all, Utah’s last second win vs the Clippers was damn good, and even Game 1 between Oklahoma and Houston had serious fireworks. So it’s perhaps crazy to think that this game was the best so far, especially when you take into account that the vast majority of fans, including several of our team, pictured the 2nd seeded Spurs sweeping the 7th seeded Grizzlies. There were a few of us however, who saw the holes in the Spurs before the Playoffs began and with the series tied 2-2, it should be no surprise.
In the Playoffs the game changes, it slows down, and takes a more methodical approach to win games, where proven talent and superstar players truly make their name. In this series, there are two superstars, split across each team. Kawhi Leonard flies the flag for the Spurs and Marc Gasol flies his for the Grizzlies. Therefore it will definitely come as a shock when I say the Grizzlies won this game in the most un-Grizzlies way imaginable. Actually, I’m not even sure who this team was that turned up last night.
The Grizzlies have always garnered extra credit come playoff time, because their old-school style which often features two dominant forwards goes against the current league trends. As a result of their throwback approach, small ball rarely exists in Memphis and with ‘grit and grind’ as their motto, hearing that they won a game courtesy of 21 transition points after averaging only 11 points per game in the first three games of the series is just plain weird and against everything Memphis stands for. The Grizzlies also combined to score 35 points over 25 spot up possessions, an aspect of the game in which they had barely reached double-figures during the 3 previous encounters. Memphis also outscored the Spurs 26 to 9 in fastbreak points, all whilst giving away a whopping 22 turnovers and not making a single shot in the post. And the only area of the match-up where there was some form of statistical normality was on the boards, grabbing 51 rebounds to San Antonio’s 37.
They didn’t exactly have a stand-out effort defensively, but when it came down to it, they held up well enough for stretches to allow Gasol and Conley to push them through the two biggest moments of the game. Kawhi did what Kawhi does, posting a stat-line of 43 points, 8 rebounds, 6 steals and 3 assists, scoring 24 points in the fourth quarter and overtime doing everything possible to steal a win in Memphis on both ends of the court. Danny Green couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing.
Tony Parker was also vibrant, finishing with 22 points after regularly probing the paint and spinning his way like a experienced acrobat to the rim.
It was a magnificent effort, but Kawhi and Parker were let down by the rest of their team, especially the two young role-players, Johnathon Simmons and Kyle Anderson, who played a combined total of 12 minutes with 0 points between them. LaMarcus Aldridge too was often bullied by Gasol in the post and lacked the aggressiveness he had shown in game 1.
Memphis should take heart from this victory and from their roster production overall and who knows, perhaps they keep the chaotic nature of this game for their next two games and somehow upset the 2nd seed. One thing is for sure though, nobody expected this series to produce one of the outstanding games of the playoffs.