Griz’ Battier expects fight from Spurs
Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 4:56 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
MEMPHIS (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies are one win away from more franchise history, and Shane Battier is expecting quite a fight from the San Antonio Spurs.
The Grizzlies routed the Spurs 104-86 on Monday night and need just one victory to become the second No. 8 seed to knock off the top seed in a best-of-seven series in the NBA playoffs.
Game 5 is Wednesday night in San Antonio, and Battier is trying to prepare his younger teammates for what lies ahead.
“It’s a very difficult situation,” he said. “These guys know this could be it. They are going to fight as hard as they have ever fought before as a group. We have to be able to match that intensity and surpass it.”
The Spurs won 61 games in the regular season and only lost the NBA’s best record by dropping the final two games. But the four-time NBA champs are on the verge losing their opening playoff series 4-1 for the second time in three years.
Battier thinks that makes Wednesday night very dangerous.
“I’d feel better if it was against someone other than the Spurs,” he said. “They are very capable of winning three straight in a playoff series. All we’ve done is held home court.”
Memphis made franchise history by winning the series opener for its first playoff victory, then added its first playoff win at home. A win Wednesday night would put the Grizzlies alongside the 2007 Golden State Warriors as the only No. 8 seeds to eliminate the top team since the NBA expanded to a best-of-seven series.
“I know a lot of people didn’t expect us to be here,” Grizzlies guard Mike Conley said. “It’s not like we were expected to be up 3-1 at this point. In our locker room, we’re just playing it game by game. We want to come into San Antonio looking to end it there. We’re focused and want to be able to move onto the next round.”
The Spurs now are placing their hopes in making a stand Wednesday night on their home court. Coach Gregg Popovich pulled his starters with 5:43 left to start resting them for that game.
“They’ll need their juice for the next game,” Popovich said.
Conley had 15 points and seven assists. Darrell Arthur added 14 points for Memphis. Tony Allen scored 12, and Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo each had 11 points.
Tony Parker scored 19 of his 23 points in the first half for the Spurs, but also had seven turnovers. Manu Ginobili had 14 points, Gary Neal finished with 11, and George Hill and Tiago Splitter had 10 apiece. Splitter, a rookie from Brazil, had not played in the series previously.
San Antonio led 50-48 for its first halftime lead of the series, and Memphis coach Lionel Hollins ripped his team at the break.
The Grizzlies responded with a 14-0 run to begin the third quarter. Marc Gasol’s two free throws at 11:04 put Memphis ahead to stay at 52-50, and Sam Young capped the surge with a dunk. The Spurs missed their first five shots, had seven turnovers in the quarter and put Memphis on the line early with foul trouble.
“Everybody started to smell blood,” Conley said. “I think we started to realize a couple more punches, and we got them. A couple more stops, a couple more layups, a couple more steals.”
The Grizzlies had every fan up and waving a rally towel, cranking up the noise with every Spurs miss or mistake. Arthur ended the quarter by hitting a pair of jumpers to put Memphis up 78-65.
Battier made a 3-pointer to give Memphis a 94-75 lead with 5:43 left, starting the party in earnest in a town desperate for an NBA winner in the Grizzlies’ 10th year here.
“They put their foot on our neck and they never let up,” Popovich said. “They did a great job.”
The Grizzlies had just their sixth sellout crowd of the season, and the fans couldn’t have been more electric. They buzzed with a sense of expectation instead of mere hope for a win over the same team that swept Memphis out of the playoffs in its first postseason trip in 2004.
Duncan, Parker and Ginobili were on that team, and they’re still with the Spurs. Ginobili was asked if they are feeling old right now.
“We’ve been feeling old for five years. I don’t think it’s a matter of experience, old or young,” Ginobili said. “We’re not the most athletic team in the league, and they are tough as we said for a week since we started playing. They are young, athletic. They play hard, and we couldn’t find answers in that third quarter.”
NOTES: The Spurs outscored Memphis 46-42 in the paint. … The Grizzlies led the NBA in forcing turnovers with 16.5 per game and steals with 9.40 per game. They had their best performance of the series Monday night, forcing 17 turnovers that they turned into 20 points. Memphis also had eight steals, three by Allen. … The Grizzlies went 23-3 in the regular season when holding opponents to 90 points or fewer. … Memphis has never played a game in May.