Gasol collected 28 points and 17 rebounds as the Grizzlies snapped a 21-game losing streak to the San Antonio Spurs with a 98-83 victory.
Memphis, which is 4-26 against San Antonio, last defeated the Spurs on February 12, 1997, when the Grizzlies were based in Vancouver.
“When you play a team you’re supposed to beat, in a strange way, teams have to focus more than when they play a team with the same record,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s a tough loss.”
“Ever since the first day that I started here, (Williams) has done everything that we ask of him, and his effort and work ethic has been amazing,” Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown said of his starting point guard, who shot just 4-of-16 from the field but 9-of-11 from the line. “He has such unbelievable heart and leadership that despite his poor shooting from the field, his heart made some big plays for us down the stretch.”
The Grizzlies had their lead cut to 94-93 on a tip-in by David Robinson with 26 seconds remaining. Gasol answered with two free throws four seconds later, and after Stephen Jackson missed a potential tying 3-pointer from the right corner with 13 seconds left, Williams iced the game with a pair from the line with eight seconds to go.
“We ran the play perfectly, I just rushed the shot,” Jackson said. “I took a bad shot. I had enough time to get myself together, I just missed it.”
“With so many young guys that we have, we really did a great job of coming together defensively to make plays down the stretch,” Wright said. “We really worked together as a team, and we are just continuing to improve and get better, and hopefully we can take that momentum as we head home.”
Tim Duncan collected 30 points, 21 rebounds and five assists and Jackson scored 17 points for the Spurs, who limited the Grizzlies to 42 percent (36-of-85) from the field but connected on just 37 percent (31-of-84).
“The game came down to our defense,” said Brown, whose team outrebounded the Spurs, 48-45. “I really felt that we did a great job of limiting their second-chance points and getting the defensive rebounds. It was a great win for us.”
The Spurs’ winning streak against the Grizzlies had been their longest against any NBA opponent. San Antonio had a nine-game home winning streak a four-game overall winning streak snapped.
The game was tight throughout, featuring 14 lead changes and 20 ties. San Antonio held a 25-23 edge after one quarter, a 46-43 lead at the break and a 70-67 advantage heading into the final 12 minutes.
The Spurs scored the first points of the fourth quarter on a dunk by Malik Rose, but the Grizzlies responded with a 15-5 run to take an 82-77 lead with just over five minutes remaining.
San Antonio rallied to tie the game, 86-86, on a 3-pointer by Jackson with 2:18 left before Williams nailed a shot from the arc with 2:02 remaining.
After the Spurs evened the game on a hook shot and free throw by Duncan with 1:38 left, the reigning league MVP appeared to be fouled from behind by Gasol going for a defensive rebound. None was called and the ball was bounced to Wright, who scored an uncontested layup that gave the Grizzlies the lead for good, 91-89, with 1:22 to play. “I don’t judge a game by a call here or there,” Popovich said. “I’m sure that any calls we felt went against us, they felt that as many went against them. The only thing you can do is kiss that off and not make that part of your assessment of the game.”
“In the game late like that, you put yourself in that position, anything can happen,” said Robinson, whose frontcourt mate Duncan did not come out to answer questions after the game. “We can’t put ourselves in that position where one call can make a difference like that.”