SAN ANTONIO – Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs have moved within two wins of reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. They also have three days to rest before taking their 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals to Memphis for Game 3.
Yet the Spurs weren't too celebratory after their 93-89 overtime victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night. And for good reason.
A year ago, they went up 2-0 against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West finals then lost four straight games to have their season end.
"These opportunities are very rare to try to win a championship and go to the Finals," said Parker, who had 15 points and a game-high 18 assists in Game 2 against the Grizzlies. "We were so close being up 2-0 and having home court. It was disappointing to win 20 games in a row and then lose four in a row. It was unreal, hard to understand. Even today I don't even know why. It's hard to explain that. This year we are learning from it and I hope we will handle it better than last year.
"It was very painful. It gave me a lot of motivation all summer long."
Many wondered whether the Spurs' core of stars – Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili – had blown their best chance at another title when they lost to the Thunder. Instead, they're back in the same position as they were a year ago. This time, they hope to finish the series.
"It ain't over till it's over," Ginobili said. "That's the only thing we learned [from last year]. I think last year we took it the right way. We just faced a team that was inspired and beat us fair and square. That's it."
The Grizzlies didn't look too inspired through the first seven quarters against the Spurs in these West finals. Memphis lost Game 1 105-83 and trailed by as many as 18 points in Game 2.
But the mood of the series changed in Tuesday's fourth quarter when the Grizzlies made a hard charge. With the Spurs up four, Ginobili was called for a flagrant foul on Tony Allen with 26.1 seconds left. Ginobili hit Allen in the arm, dropping him to the court, and Allen writhed, clutching his head – even though TV replays showed his head never hit the ground.
"It's such a weird play," Duncan said. "I know it's a tough play for the officials. I think Tony just tried to sell it more than anything, but I guess the ruling is if he's in a vulnerable position and they feel that it's excessive, then it's a flagrant. But I thought Manu did the right thing and tried to prevent the layup and just let the referees call what they have to call."
Said Allen: "[Ginobili] can't pull me out of the air."
Grizzlies guard Mike Conley sent the game to overtime with a clutch 7-foot jumper with 18.2 seconds left. Defense, the Grizzlies said, keyed their comeback.
"Game 1 was an aberration," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. "We've been blown out during the season as well. It's just one loss and we got back to being us."
Saddled with five fouls, Duncan scored six of the Spurs' eight points in OT to lead them to the victory. The close game gave the Spurs only more reason to remember the Grizzlies' toughness.
"Memphis was down 0-2 against the Clippers. They were down 0-1 against OKC. They came back," Parker said. "They're very tough mentally. We know it's going to be a war over there."
The Grizzlies' confidence after the loss made it oddly feel like they were leaving San Antonio with some measure of momentum. The reality, however, is Memphis needs to win Game 3 on Saturday to avoid falling into an 0-3 hole in the best-of-seven series.
"That's our goal: Go get Game 3," Ginobili said. "That's the only thing we care about. We can't be thinking, 'We got a Game 5 here.' It's not like that. It's not how it works.
"The most important game is the next one."
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Clippers not retaining Vinny Del Negro as coach
• Kevin Durant donates $1 million to Red Cross for Oklahoma disaster relief
• Is LeBron James-Frank Vogel controversy overblown?