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 6 - Memphis 99, San Antonio 91 – Grizzlies win series, 4-2

 

The Memphis Grizzlies have officially exercised the playoff demons that have haunted them during their short history. After having bowed out of the playoffs on three separate occasions without a single victory, the 2011 version of the Grizzlies completed a monumental upset, finishing off the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in six games to secure a spot in the second round.

After a heartbreaking overtime loss in Game 5, Memphis had to display a short-term memory and wipe out the knowledge that it had half a foot in the second round of the playoffs. Memphis led San Antonio by three points with just 1.7 seconds left in regulation in Game 5, only to see the Spurs’ Gary Neal hit an improbable triple to force the extra period. That kind of moment can rattle a young team without a postseason pedigree. The Grizzlies needed to finish the job and exhibit the mental toughness the Spurs have shown so often over the years.

Memphis wobbled for stretches of this tilt on Friday night at a raucous FedEx Forum, but when crunch time came calling, the number eight seed answered the bell, especially its best player.

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Zach Randolph carried the young Memphis ballclub on his back down the stretch in Game 6. With the Spurs taking an 80-79 lead with 4:39 seconds to go in the contest, it looked as if the proud, old stalwarts from the Alamo City had a great chance to head back to San Antonio for a decisive Game 7. Enter Mr. Randolph. The do-everything forward scored 13 of the next 18 Grizzlies points, once again hitting tough mid-range jumpers against generally solid defense. Randolph finished with 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting, a capper to a series in which he played the best basketball of his career, hands down. The Grizzlies, just as they have all season long, dominated the interior, scoring a staggering 62 points in the paint. Memphis can defend as well as any team in the league and on Friday night, it was Tony Allen’s pressure on Manu Ginobili that caused the Spurs headaches. San Antonio shot just 5-of-22 beyond the arc, failing to score with the regularity and ease it did in its 61-win regular season, which is a distant memory now.

Three other Grizzlies, including back-up point guard Grevis Vasquez, scored in double figures. Vasquez provided a great spark off the bench, scoring 11 points while spelling Mike Conley for free trouble early on.

 

It looked as if the Grizzlies were going to run away with the game early on as they jumped out to a quick 20-8 lead. The Spurs didn’t go quietly, cutting the lead and eventually giving themselves a chance to extend their season. However, they ran out of steam in the final four and a half minutes. With this loss, one definitely senses that the Spurs’ chances to win a title with their Big Three core of Tim Duncan, Ginobili, and Tony Parker have now been extinguished. This is the end of an era for the second-best team in the NBA – next to the Los Angeles Lakers - over the past 12 years. The franchise that won championships in 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007 has likely ridden into the sunset as a viable title contender. It will need to be substantially remade in order to taste future greatness.

Parker had 23 points to lead the Spurs. Neal and teammate George Hill were unable to shoot the ball effectively, combining to go just 6-of-22. Richard Jefferson, another player who needed to pick up the slack with Duncan and Ginobili showing their age, didn’t score a single point at the end of a series in which he flatly embarrassed himself.

It is the end of an era in San Antonio. Meanwhile, it just might be the beginning of a bright new day in Memphis. The Grizzlies are in the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Maybe this core will rise to the top in future seasons while older teams such as the one from San Antonio will gradually fade into the background.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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