Another rough first quarter start, another overtime game, and yet once more Tim Duncan shines in the most important of moments, neglecting the fact that he is the oldest player in the series and going through personal troubles off the court, being the main reason the San Antonio Spurs are 3-0 ahead in the Western Conference Finals.
Stat of the day: The San Antonio Spurs have never needed fifth game when they were already 3-0 up, so despite having a fourth game to play at Memphis, their 104-93 game 3 after being down by 16 points after the first 12 minutes might have been the final necessary blow to close out this series. The Memphis Grizzlies aren’t done yet, but they’re not far from it.
To begin at the beginning is always a good way to tell a story, and it seemed like a sad one for the Spurs early on. They were down 13-29 in the first, turning the ball over nine times while shooting 21% from the field in one of the worst first quarter performances in playoff history.
Yet the fabled Memphis Grizzlies defense hasn’t shown up for this series, not like it did against the one-dimensional Oklahoma City Thunder or the predictable Los Angeles Clippers. The Spurs have so many sides to their offense it’s been impossible completely containing them, and they’ve been scoring 107.4 points per 100 possessions in the series, 10 points more than the Grizzlies allowed during the regular season.
Tony Parker scored 26 points to lead the Spurs, hitting 50% of his 22 field goal attempts. The Spurs went to the Pick & Roll on more than third of their offensive possessions, generating 1.16 points per possession, with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter virtually unstoppable in those situations. The Grizzlies couldn’t find a way around the motion offense the Spurs perform so efficiently, creating too many open shots and comfortable looks, which was the exact opposite the other way around.
Gregg Popovich said something about turnovers, and that was it, as far as he wanted to explain. After the Spurs turned the ball over nine times n the first quarter, they lost it only 8 more times for the rest of the game, including overtime. The Grizzlies offense just stopped working, as their main key, giving Zach Randolph in comfortable positions, didn’t work.
Why? Because Duncan, that’s why. He scored 24 points, adding 10 rebounds and 5 assists, making it his 94th career 20-10 playoff game and 144th postseason double-double, second on the all-time list behind Magic Johnson with 157. While keeping Randolph away from the paint, Duncan also shined in overtime, just like in game 2. He scored the first five points and finished with 7 in the final 5 minutes, as the Spurs won it 18-7. Tony Parker and Tiago Splitter, continuing to be super effective on both ends of the floor, made the most of the despairing Grizzlies.
The numbers between the first quarter and the rest of the game tell one side of the story: 21.1% from the field compared to 58.7% the rest of the game, but it was once again about the Spurs simply being a smarter and better executing basketball team. They have the head coach for it, and still, after all these years, the right players for it. This season, more than in the last four or five, they even have the right crew around their stars to complete the job.