SPURS-GRIZZLIES SERIES: Fizdale's rant quickly became story of Game 2

Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

First-round playoff series
(Spurs lead 2-0)

Game 1: Spurs 111, Grizzlies 82, Saturday, AT&T Center
Game 2: Spurs 96, Grizzlies 82, Monday, AT&T Center
Game 3: Thursday, 8:30 p.m., Memphis
Game 4: Saturday, 7 p.m., Memphis
Game 5: Tuesday, April 25 (time TBD), AT&T Center*
Game 6: Thursday, April 27 (time TBD), Memphis*
Game 7: Saturday, April 29 (time TBD), AT&T Center*
*if necessary

SAN ANTONIO – After 21 seasons as the Spurs’ head coach, Gregg Popovich knows better than to get in the middle of a spat about officiating.

Led by Kawhi Leonard, who scored a career playoff-high 37 points, the Silver and Black beat Memphis 96-82 on Monday night at the AT&T Center to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

But a postgame rant by first-year Grizzlies coach David Fizdale on the officiating, which he called “unacceptable” and “unprofessional” has dominated what’s been said and written about the series in the past two days.

The NBA fined Fizdale $30,000 Wednesday for his criticism of the officials after Game 2.

Popovich played it by the book after practice Wednesday when he was asked if he’s ever publicly dressed down officials to motivate his players.

“I’m just concerned about getting my team ready to play,” Popovich said.

The best-of-seven series moves to Memphis for the next two games. Game 3 is set for 8:30 p.m. Thursday, with Game 4 tipping off at 7 p.m. Saturday.

While Popovich did not comment on Fizdale’s tirade specifically, he said it’s more prudent for coaches, not players, to complain about the officiating.

“I don’t control what [players] do or say,” Popovich said. “I always think it’s smart for players to just play. If players get hung up on officiating, I think it hurts their game. We coaches moan and groan at the refs enough. Players don’t need to get involved in that.”

Fizdale seethed as he complained about the disparity in free throws Monday night. The Spurs went to the line more than twice as many times (32) as the Grizzlies (15). Leonard, who went 19 for 19 at the free throw line, had four more attempts than the Grizzlies did as a team.

The margin of difference in free throw attempts was eight in the Spurs' 111-82 rout in the series opener Saturday, the Grizzlies going to the line 17 times and the Spurs 25. 

Memphis finished Game 2 with three more field goals (31-28) than San Antonio, but the Silver and Black had a decisive edge in made free throws (31-13).

“We don’t get the respect that these guys deserve because Mike Conley doesn’t go crazy,” said Fizdale, referring to the Grizzlies’ starting point guard. “He has class and just plays the game. But I’m not going to let them treat us that way.

“Pop’s got pedigree and I’m a young rookie, but they are not gonna rook us. That’s unacceptable, that’s unprofessional. My guys dug in that game and earned the right to be in that game, and [the officials] did not even give us a chance. Take that for data.”

Fizdale then slapped the table in front of him before walking out of the interview room.

Veteran Spurs center Pau Gasol, who started his NBA career with Memphis in 2001, figured Fizdale had his reasons for going off on the refs.

“I think he’s just trying to motivate his team, stand up for his team. That’s it,” Gasol said. “There’s no other twist about it. You’ve got to respect that. You’ve got to get your team going, and you do it whichever way is necessary, I guess.”

Gasol said he doesn’t think the free throw disparity in Game 2 has anything to do with a lack of respect for Fizdale.

“It’s the playoffs and sometimes you just can’t control certain things of the game,” Gasol said. “You’ve got to play through them. Sometimes they go more a little your way, sometimes they go against you. You can always argue a few calls here and there, but I don’t think it’s ever out of lack of respect to anyone.”

Gasol took a dig at the refs himself.

“I didn’t get to the free throw line yet this series,” Gasol said. “Have I complained about it? Sure. It’s not going to do any good. Just keep playing hard.”

While Gasol said there could be something to Fizdale’s complaint that the Grizzlies aren’t getting the respect they deserve from the refs because he’s a rookie coach, he added that some things are best left alone.

“I assume that a guy that has been 20-plus years successful and has the status of coach Pop, and I’m a guy who just comes into the league and gets a head coaching job, I might not get the same treatment,” Gasol said. “I guess you have to earn it.

“But, again, I’m not going to emphasize it. I’m not going to point it out. It is what it is. I’m going to try to coach my team the best I can, or try to play the best as I can as a player. In my case, to help my team, and that’s it.”

© 2017 KENS-TV


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