Quantcast 2011 NBA Western Conference Playoffs: Round One - San Antonio vs Memphis

 

2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Western Conference First Round

Western Conference First Round Game 4 - Memphis 104, San Antonio 86 – Grizzlies lead series, 3-1

 

So, this is what it looks like to see a proud and enduring dynasty finally hit a wall.

This is no longer a case of the San Antonio Spurs failing to play their best basketball and nothing more. This is no longer a situation in which a team with four NBA championships over the past 12 years is simply failing to flip the “on” switch. This is no longer a dynamic in which a bunch of Hall of Fame players, led by a future Hall of Fame coach, are simply dogging it. No, the Spurs, the NBA’s purest success story over the past dozen years, are no longer the sole focus of this stunning first-round series. After a second-half runaway on Monday night at the FedEx Forum, it has to be said that the Memphis Grizzlies are better, younger and hungrier than their old-men foes on the other bench.

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Yes, through the first three games of this clash – a confrontation Memphis intentionally welcomed by tanking the final few games of its regular season – there was a pronounced sense that the Spurs were simply not measuring up to par. Tony Parker couldn’t find the basket and the top seed in the West committed stacks of stupid mistakes to give Memphis a timely aid in key moments. However, Game 4 in the state of Tennessee changed all that. The eighth seed, after playing possum in an even-steven first half, blew away the 61-win Spurs after halftime. The Grizzlies followed up their first home playoff win in franchise history with the biggest playoff win in franchise history. One more victory will now enable Memphis will become just the second eight-seed to win its first round series since the NBA expanded to a best-of-seven series. (In 1994, Denver beat Seattle in a best-of-five first-round series.)

Credit a terrific third quarter for the outcome on Monday evening in Memphis. Trailing 50-48 at halftime, the Grizzlies exploded for the third quarter’s first 14 points. Eight of those points came from the free throw line. The Spurs cut the home team’s 12-point advantage to 66-61 with 4:33 left in the third quarter but got no closer. The Grizzlies continued to pour it on the fourth quarter, eventually taking 94-74 lead after a Shane Battier 3-pointer with 5:33 remaining. At this point, San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich had seen enough: He pulled his starters and essentially conceded defeat. Memphis wasn’t complaining. The sold out crowd at Fed Ex Forum was as lively as a playoff arena can get.

 

It was a balanced scoring attack that made the difference for the Grizzlies, who showed that they’re formidable even without Rudy Gay. The eighth seed continued to pound the ball into the paint on seemingly every possession, and the increasingly creaky Spurs provided little resistance. Memphis was led by Mike Conley’s 14 points. Darrell Arthur and O.J. Mayo provided a tremendous spark off the bench, scoring 15 and 14 points respectively. The Grizzlies shot 50 percent from the field and had just eight turnovers on the night, over half of San Antonio’s total.

Tony Parker had 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Manu Ginobli and the fading Tim Duncan weren’t able to get a rhythm going offensively all night long.

Yes, this is what the end of an era looks like. Unless the Spurs access a deep well of fresh energy in short order, they’re going to become the latest top seed to be toppled in round one of the playoffs.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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