Posted on April 28, 2011 at 12:07 AM
Monday, Aug 1 at 5:55 PM
Hold the obituary on the Spurs. They’re not dead yet.
Not by a long shot – pun intended.
To borrow from former Spurs broadcaster Terry Stembridge, there will be another night after the Silver and Black rallied for a stirring 110-103 overtime victory against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday night at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs were all but buried after a 104-86 loss in Memphis on Monday night put them in a 3-1 hole, and they looked like goners after Zach Randolph hit two free throws to put the Grizzlies ahead 97-94 with 1.7 seconds left in Game 5.
Then, the Spurs got back the mojo, that aura they demonstrated so many times in winning 61 regular-season games and earning the No. 1 seed throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
Taking the inbounds pass from Manu Ginobili on the last possession of regulation, undrafted rookie Gary Neal nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime and bring a thunderous roar from the sellout crowd of 18,581.
Neal’s straightaway shot followed a long 2-pointer by Ginobili that cut Memphis’ lead to 95-94 with 2.2 seconds left. Ginobili’s field goal was initially counted as a 3-pointer, but a video replay showed his left toe was on the line.
Regardless of how the series ends for the Spurs, Neal earned a place in the team’s lore with his big shot.
In the end, the Spurs won and staved off getting eliminated by the No. 8 seed Grizzlies because they dug deep and kept chipping away at the proverbial stone.
“I think teams that are in the playoffs, at this point, have that ability,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Nobody’s gonna die. People are going to always try and come back. Some nights you can’t do it, but it’s not going to be for lack of effort.
“I expected our guys to hang in. They came back strong. They did a great job and we hung in tough. That’s all about character and I never doubt that our guys have that for sure.”
The Spurs will be tested more than they’ve ever been this season when they play the Grizzlies in Game 6 on Friday night in Memphis.
The Spurs split four games with the Grizzlies during the regular season, but both of their victories came at the AT&T Center. So counting their two playoff losses in Memphis, the Spurs are 0-4 at the FedExForum this year.
Monday night’s lopsided victory by the Grizzlies was in stark contrast to the 91-88 nailbiter they survived in Game 3 on Saturday.
The Spurs can win Friday night, but they will have to play their best game of the series to do it. They certainly will have to play better than they did in Game 5.
San Antonio led by as many 16 points in the first half, but was outscored 26-15 in the third quarter.
Once again, the Spurs couldn’t shake the Grizzlies. And, remember, they were playing on their home court with the crowd cheering them on.
To say the Spurs face an uphill battle in Memphis on Friday night would be an understatement.
“It’s going to be so hard,” said Manu Ginobili, who led the Spurs with 33 points. “They are a team that usually plays with edge and fire. And then imagine how that arena is going to be, having the opportunity to eliminate the No. 1 seed in the West.
“It’s going to be wild, it’s going to be rough. We’ve got to be smart. Don’t just give them the ball and let them run. We can’t make silly mistakes. We just have to use that experience, that age that everyone is talking about.”
A Spurs victory Saturday would send the series back to San Antonio for the decisive seventh game Sunday.
Given how the Spurs have struggled to win at the FedExForum this season, the Grizzlies should close out the series Friday night.
But then again, don’t count out the Spurs.
Not after what they did in the final 2.2 seconds of regulation Wednesday night.