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 5 - San Antonio 110, Memphis 103 (OT) – Grizzlies lead series, 3-2


With the cowhide globe sailing through the air, and the final buzzer echoing throughout the AT&T Center in San Antonio, the entire NBA was about to change depending on whether the ball passed through the net on a shot that felt like a prayer.

If the ball did splash through nylon, the San Antonio Spurs would have been able to temporarily dodge an elimination bullet, destined to fight the Memphis Grizzlies for another five minutes of overtime. With San Antonio trailing the series three games to one, the ball had to tickle the twine. Had the attempt missed the mark, Memphis would have become just the second eighth-seeded club to knock off a top seed since the NBA expanded to seven games in the first round.

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When the ball was finally ushered to the basket by gravity, the basketball world received its answer: Gary Neal etched his place in Spurs history and NBA playoff lore. A team that is aging before the eyes of the NBA was at least proud enough, and lucky enough, to extend its season one more game.

Neal – who had no roster and no summer league contract a year ago at this time – hit an improbable desperation three-pointer as regulation time expired on Wednesday night in the Alamo City. Neal’s bomb tied the contest at 97 and gave San Antonio new life. With an extra frame awarded them, the four-time champions dominated the dazed Grizzlies 13-6 in the overtime period to extend the series to a sixth game.


For much of the contest it didn’t look as if the Spurs were going to need late game heroics. San Antonio ran its advantage to 16 points midway through the second quarter. The Grizzlies simply wouldn’t go away, though, and took control in the second half just as they have for almost all of this series. Memphis continually chipped away until it captured the lead just before the fourth quarter. The final frame was a back-and-forth prizefight between two teams who were hungry for victory. With Memphis leading 91-90, Zach Randolph calmly hit a 18-foot jumper from the right wing to give the Grizzlies a three-point lead with 13 seconds remaining. After a quick San Antonio basket, Randolph hit a pair of free throws to push the advantage to 95-92. On the ensuring inbound it looked as if the Grizzlies had deflected a pass and time would run out. San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili grabbed the loose ball, however, and drained what looked to be a stunning game-tying three with just two seconds remaining. Video replay showed Ginobli’s foot was on the line and the call was changed to a two-pointer. After Randolph made two more clutch free throws, the stage was set for Neal’s buzzer-beating, series-saving three-pointer.

Ginobili finished with 33 points on the evening. Tony Parker had 24. The Spurs committed just 18 fouls to the Grizzlies’ 28. This resulted in a free-throw disparity that was important in the larger scheme of this contest.

Randolph was 10-of-17 from the field and scored 26 points. Memphis shot 46 percent and did everything it could do to win the game.

Everything, that is, except stop Gary Neal (Gary who?) from coming up big. The Spurs might be about to die on Friday in Game 6, but at least they’ll have a chance to fight onward.


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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer

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