Spurs finish strong, put Grizzlies on brink

Sat Apr 23, 2016 1:57am EDT
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(The Sports Xchange) - Despite lopsided wins by San Antonio in the first two games of the Western Conference opening-round playoff series against the injury depleted Memphis Grizzlies, Spurs guard Manu Ginobili knew Friday night would be different.

The Grizzlies -- who began losing players at an alarming rate with 30 games left in the regular season -- refused to go quietly in their first home game in the series, which was played before a sellout crowd of 18,119. San Antonio led by only two points with 4:38 to go, but finished strong behind Kawhi Leonard for a 96-87 victory at FedExForum.

Leonard scored 32 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 for the Spurs, who can clinch the best-of-seven series with a win Sunday, also at FedExForum.

"Game 3 is always huge (in a playoff series) and they knew it," Ginobili said. "They were aggressive. They went to the boards."

After being dominated by the Spurs in the first two games of the series -- losses of 32 and 26 points in San Antonio -- the Grizzlies competed from the outset. Memphis trailed by only one at the half and led 71-70 entering the fourth quarter.

A JaMychal Green layup, off an alley-oop pass from Xavier Munford, gave the Grizzlies a 73-70 lead to start the final quarter, but the Spurs recovered. San Antonio scored nine straight for a 79-73 advantage with 8:03 left and never trailed again. When Memphis trimmed the lead to 83-81 on a Matt Barnes tip-in with 4:38 left, the Spurs used an 8-2 run -- capped by a short turnaround by Leonard -- to pull away. Leonard had five points during the run.

"I give them a lot of credit," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "The purpose they came with, the pride they showed and the mental toughness (the Grizzlies displayed) for 48 minutes. We did a good job fighting it from time to time ... I thought their game plan was great and I thought their effort was even better."

In an attempt to shake things up, Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger chose to start a small lineup, inserting 6-foot-4 guard Tony Allen for 6-10 center Chris Anderson. Allen joined 6-6 Vince Carter, 6-7 Barnes, 6-9 Zach Randolph and 6-2 Jordan Farmer in the starting five and the strategy worked.

"I thought our guys played their tails off," Joerger said. "It got away from us there late, but I'm really, really proud of the effort we put forth and how we performed. We shot 50 (times) in the paint, we just, unfortunately, only scored 22 of those."   Continued...

Apr 22, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) passes as Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) defends in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports