Posted on April 26, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Monday, Aug 1 at 5:55 PM
SAN ANTONIO -- With the Spurs on the brink of getting eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by the surging Memphis Grizzlies, that first Friday night in March seems so long ago now.
But, really, it’s been only a little more than seven weeks since the Spurs delighted their fans with a 30-point rout of LeBron James and the Miami Heat at the AT&T Center.
But as the Spurs can attest, fortunes on an NBA court can change as quickly as the stock market.
The 125-95 victory on March 4 pushed the Spurs’ NBA-best record to 51-11 with 20 games left in the regular season, and raised hopes even higher among their fans for a fifth league title.
But the team that looked unbeatable against the Heat withered against the Lakers on national TV two days later, losing 99-83 at the AT&T Center.
Then, 10 days after their embarrassing loss in San Antonio, the Heat turned the tables on the Spurs with a 30-point victory of their own in Miami.
The Spurs went 10-10 after rolling past the Heat on March 4, but thanks to their outstanding record before they tailed off, they still headed into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Down 3-1 against Memphis, the Spurs must beat the Grizzlies in Game 5 on Wednesday night at the AT&T Center to extend the series and avoid becoming only the second No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 8 seed since the first round expanded to a best-of-seven format.
Golden State stunned the Dallas Mavericks in 2007.
Only eight teams in NBA history have won a series after trailing 3-1. One of them, the Washington Bullets, rallied to beat the Spurs in the 1979 Eastern Conference finals.
Their 61-victory regular season notwithstanding, the Spurs have done nothing in their series against the Grizzlies that would suggest they could become the ninth team to climb out of a 3-1 hole.
It took the Spurs 79 games to clinch home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs this season, but they lost it in a matter of hours after falling to the Grizzlies 101-98 in Game 1. The victory was the first ever in the postseason for Memphis, which was 0-12 in the playoffs.
San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili missed the series opener with a sprained right elbow, but he started Game 2 and helped the Spurs carve out a 93-87 victory.
Then the series moved to Memphis, where the Spurs lost twice during the regular season. The teams split their four-game series, with the home team winning each time.
The Grizzlies eked out a 91-88 victory in Game 3 on Saturday and drew within victory of advancing to the semifinals with a 104-86 rout Monday night.
Point guard Tony Parker hit 9 of 12 shots and led the Spurs with 23 points in Game 4, but he finished with seven turnovers and had only one assist.
Tim Duncan, who turned 35 Monday, had only six points.
The Grizzlies are brimming with youthful exuberance while the Spurs never have looked so old since winning their first of four NBA championships 12 years ago.
Still, the Spurs are a proud team. They will summon what little mojo they have left and find a way to win Game 5.
But a season that held so much promise in early March most likely will end Friday night in Memphis.