Grizzlies forward Shane Battier(notes) says Memphis is electric, and he sees no problem with his teammates rebounding from Wednesday night’s 110-103 overtime loss in San Antonio. They are trying to become the fourth No. 8 seed in NBA history to beat a top seed to win a playoff series, holding a 3-2 lead going into Friday night’s game.
“Ah, pressure, shmessure,” Battier said. “We’re playing with house money. I still contend that. We’ve proven we can come in here, and we’ve played well. So we want to win because we want to win, and we want to play well because we want to play well. Bottom line.”
His teammates say they can’t wait for Game 6 and would’ve tipped at noon Thursday if they could. Neither can their fans. Tickets went on sale Thursday morning, and the franchise notched its fastest sellout ever less than an hour.
Grizzlies guard Mike Conley(notes) said they aren’t dwelling over Gary Neal’s(notes) dagger of a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to force overtime or that the Spurs avoided elimination by outscoring them 13-6 in the extra period.
“We’re ready to play,” Conley said. “After we lost (Wednesday) night, we can’t wait to get back in front of the fans and put on a show for them and get a win.”
Memphis fans would welcome a series-clinching victory Friday night. Neal’s shot dredged up painful memories of Mario Chalmers’(notes) three-pointer for Kansas at the end of regulation against the Tigers in the 2008 NCAA national championship game. The Tigers, Memphis’ first basketball love, let a title-clinching lead dwindle away with Chalmers’ three-pointer forcing OT where Kansas finished off the victory and the title.
Making it even worse those Tigers lost in San Antonio.
The Game 5 loss was so bad for Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph(notes) that he barely slept. He scored 18 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime but couldn’t help Memphis hold on for the win. Randolph said the Grizzlies know they were supposed to have won that game but also understand Neal hit a tough shot.
Now the Grizzlies face a must-win.
“We don’t want to go back” to San Antonio, Randolph said.
That might sound odd considering only eight NBA teams have ever rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a series. Then again Memphis had never even won a playoff game before this year, let alone a series.
If any team is capable of such a rally, it could be the Spurs. They won 61 games in the regular season and have Tim Duncan(notes) trying to add a fifth NBA title to his resume—with help from veterans Tony Parker(notes) and Manu Ginobili(notes).
The Spurs weren’t available Thursday, but Ginobili said wininng in Memphis will be hard. He sees the Grizzlies playing with an edge, made even more dangerous by a packed arena eager to watch the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed go out.
“It’s going to be wild and rough,” Ginobili said. “We’ve got to be smart, just don’t give them the ball and let them run and make silly mistakes. Just use our experience. That age that everybody talk about we have to use it smart.”
The Spurs lived to play another game thanks to Neal’s shot and Ginobili’s own long jumper. But Duncan had only six points in his last game in Memphis. Parker’s shooting touch has come, and mostly gone, in this series. Ginobili keeps battling with a fat brace protecting his sore right elbow.
Ginobili said he didn’t think the Spurs showed the heart of a champion and just got lucky with two key shots.
“We were very close to being on vacation now,” Ginobili said.
That leaves the Spurs trying to keep feeding off the energy from Neal’s shot, which helped them finish off overtime.
“Like a new life,” Parker said. “It gives us a lot of energy. I was so happy.”
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins is brushing this off as just a tough loss. The Grizzlies had their share in the regular season, including one to Sacramento where Tyreke Evans(notes) hit a half-court buzzer beater in late December. Memphis wound up clinching its first playoff berth in five years against that same team in April.
“If you play cards, you lose a hand, you don’t stop playing,” Hollins said. “You keep competing, and the next night you go out and compete again.”
Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber in San Antonio and AP freelance writer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tenn., contributed to this report.