Another day, another win for the Spurs. Now when I say “another win” take that very, very lightly. There was nothing ordinary or extraordinary about this win, but boy was it weird.
Up until about a minute and a half left in the game, the Spurs were rolling. Everyone was doing exactly what needed to be done on the first night of a traveling back-to-back; the aging veterans were contributing where they were needed, the role players were picking up the slack, cruising down the home stretch with a 12 point lead on the road, a sure victory grasped within San Antonio’s hands.
Turns out, it was a relatively loose grasp.
Popovich pulled Duncan and Parker, hoping to allow the grizzled veterans to escape Memphis with a little extra rest. That’s when all Hell broke loose. Memphis’ Mike Conley began to heat up, getting to the bucket with ease, finishing an and-one and getting another free throw off a foul, giving him 4 quick points in 30 seconds. After Jeff Ayres (Duncan’s replacement) got the ball stolen by Conley, resulting in an easy score, Popovich had had enough, putting his two stars back in for the final 50 seconds.
The 12 point lead was diminished to 6 in a matter of a minute, with less than a minute to go. That’s when things got even weirder.
By this time, the crowd was completely into the game, yelling and screaming on their feet as their team pushed for a miraculous comeback. Belinelli air balled a deep 3, giving Memphis, full of momentum, the ball. Mike Conley drained a running 3 with less than 20 seconds left, narrowing the margin to 3. The crowd was still going strong, and as the ball was inbounded to Belinelli (to insure a good free throw shooter would be at the charity stripe for the Spurs) Memphis trapped instead of fouled, Belinelli fumbled the ball, giving James Johnson a wide open breakaway three to tie the game.
San Antonio got the ball back and Ginobili did classic Ginobili things, making a reverse layup with 3.6 remaining, giving the Spurs a two point lead, almost insuring victory once again. But no, Mike Conley wowed the audience once again and drove right by Kawhi Leonard to the hoop, bouncing in a runner as time expired to force overtime. As you can imagine, this slew of events was just as confusing live as it is on paper. I have no other words to describe just how utterly weird the last two minutes were.
Well, after a total breakdown and lapse of both concentration and total ability to play basketball, the Spurs veterans hunkered down and played 5 extra minutes of free basketball in front of the Memphis faithful, edging out the competition in a 110-108 victory. Ginobili came through once again with the game winning layup, making 2 out of his only 3 baskets for the night possibly the 2 most crucial of all.
Duncan, Diaw, and Ginobili were the only scorers in overtime, giving San Antonio the veteran push needed to bring home a very sloppy victory. Despite the overpowering advantage of home court and the momentum required to pull off an incredible comeback, Memphis was unable to match the calm, cool, and collected play of San Antonio.
A win is a win, but San Antonio had to play their aging core about 6 extra minutes in order to walk away with the win Tuesday night. With a tough matchup tonight against Dallas after traveling back home from Memphis, the Spurs will have to work even harder to get the W.