The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 104 – 93 on Saturday night to take a commanding 3 – 0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals. Now the Grizzlies have to make history if they want to make it to the finals, and NBA teams in similar sports are 107 – 0 when trying to come back from a 3 – 0 series deficit.
This is the second game in a row that went into overtime in this series, but what makes this game worse is the fact that the Grizzlies had an 18 point lead in the first half that the Spurs slowly chipped away at. Even after a turnover laden first half that saw Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and the rest of the Spurs starters benched by head coach Greg Popovich due to not playing well they still found a way to come back in this game. The Spurs showed their championship mettle even in the face of the Grizzlies playing well at home, and feeding off the energy of the crowd.
One of the most glaring deficiencies for the Grizzlies was late in the game when they needed a basket to win the game, and really didn’t have a player they could turn to for that. They attempted to turn to Mike Conley when they needed a basket, but the Spurs put the bigger Kawhi Leonard on him which made it near impossible for Conley to get off a clean shot. They tried several screens and dribble hand offs to get Conley free, and when that didn’t work the best they could must were contested jump shots from Mark Gasol.
Imagine if the Grizzlies still had Rudy Gay who they traded to Toronto for Ed Davis, Austin Daye, a second round draft pick and Tayshaun Prince. Gay would have definitely been the option they went to down the stretch and would have been much better equipped to create his own shot and score against the 6′ 6″ Leonard when needed. The Grizzlies dumped Gay in a money motivated move because he was due $16.5 million per year for several more seasons, and the new owner of the team wanted to avoid paying luxury taxes.
Head coach Lionel Hollins lobbied to keep his starters together through the end of the season, but that request was not honored by the owner. Going cheap is not always the best solution, and as the Grizzlies search for answers in the face of being eliminated you have to wonder what position they would be in if they still had Rudy Gay. Grizzlies players have only had minimal comments on the trade earlier this season, but I am sure internally they miss having Gay to rely on in crunch time.