PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference first round; Spurs lead 3-0.
The Memphis Grizzlies waited nine years to taste the postseason. It may take at least one more year for their first playoff win.
The San Antonio Spurs will try to put an abrupt end to the best season in Grizzlies’ history as they look to complete a sweep of this first-round series.
Memphis was backed by a boisterous crowd Thursday for the first home playoff game in team history, but Mike Miller’s 3-pointer bounced off the back rim at the final buzzer as San Antonio hung on for a 95-93 victory to take a 3-0 series lead.
“We don’t want to get swept. So we have to come out here with guns blazing on Sunday and play as hard as we did tonight,” Miller said.
Coming off a club-record 50-win season to make the playoffs for the first time, the Grizzlies will not lie down in Game 4 for the defending NBA champions. They put up an admirable fight in Game 3 after being blown out in both contests at San Antonio.
“It’s very important because you never know what can happen in a series,” Spurs forward Robert Horry said of trying to complete a sweep. “You need to go out and try to get this next win and end this thing, so we can prepare for the next team.”
Horry’s playoff experience has showed in this series, as he has contributed 10 points and nine rebounds per game—more than double his season averages. He had 14 points and 10 boards in Game 2, then had 12 rebounds in Game 3 to help the Spurs to a 48-31 rebounding edge and 18 second-chance points.
“He’s been playing his butt off. He knows how to play the game more than anything,” Spurs All-Star Tim Duncan said. “It doesn’t show up in the (statistics) … He makes so many things happen. He spreads the floor very well. He makes big shots. He just makes basketball plays.”
With one more rebound in Game 1, Duncan would have 20-point, 10-rebound performances in each of the first three games. Duncan scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3 as the defending champions moved within one win of the next round.
San Antonio is looking to sweep a playoff series for the first time since 1999, when it won the first of its two championships. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.
“We know it’s hard to come back from 3-0, but we don’t want to be the first,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “We don’t want to make it long.”
It’s been more than a month since the Spurs last lost a game, having won 14 in a row since losing at Minnesota on March 23.
Memphis, on the other hand, has lost seven straight and nine of 10.
However, the Grizzlies should be encouraged by their performance Thursday despite the loss. They committed just seven turnovers while forcing 15, and shot 48.7 percent from the field after being held to 35.8 in the first two games.
A big reason for the Grizzlies’ 3-0 deficit is a starting backcourt that has been relatively ineffective. Miller and Jason Williams have combined to average just 17.3 points and 4.3 assists per game while shooting 32.8 percent from the floor.
Williams sat out a light practice Friday with a sore right hand, but is expected to play Sunday.
If the Grizzlies win, Game 5 would be in San Antonio on Wednesday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Spurs - 3rd seed. Grizzlies - 6th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Spurs - Duncan, 23.7 ppg and 11.3 rpg; Parker, 7.0 apg. Grizzlies - Gasol, 17.3 ppg and 6.0 rpg; Williams, 3.3 apg.