The Optimist’s Dilemna: Hope vs. Reality

While just about everyone has counted the San Antonio Spurs out of this series, even the Memphis Grizzlies know they need to win one more game before they can complete this shocking first round upset over the Spurs.

San Antonio spursBut for the optimistic Spurs fan, there’s still plenty of hope.

Two of the games this series have been decided by a late three-pointer that could have greatly turned things around and put the young Grizzlies on their heels

While last night’s loss certainly put things in perspective, the Spurs have bounced back from some big playoff losses before, which includes overcoming two 20-point losses to the New Orleans Hornets in 2008 and going on to win in the seventh game. They also lost a game to the Mavericks by 22 points in the first round of the 2010 playoffs before bouncing them out in five games.

Coming back from 3-1 deficit has also been done before. Eight teams have come back from such a deficit in NBA history to win and several more have come back to push the series to seven games. Most recently, the Phoenix Suns in 2006, came back from the same deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers. “They are very capable of winning three straight in a playoff series,” Grizzlies forward Shane Battier said. “All we’ve done is held homecourt. Now, these guys should expect the toughest game of their career, come Wednesday.”

But now for the negative:

While teams have come back to win after being down 3-1, it’s been in a minuscule 4.3 percent of playoff series.

The Spurs may bounce back after last night’s loss. but it’s clear that the Grizzlies won’t be taking their feet off the accelerator any time soon. In a matter of a day, the Spurs will have to figure out how to quickly fix the vulnerabilities that have been exposed in this series, because it is very doubtful that the Grizzlies will be overconfident trying to close out game five in San Antonio.

“This is just the beginning. We ain’t done nothing yet,” Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph said. “We’ve still got one more game to win. We’ve got to get ready. It’s going to be a tough game. We’re going to San Antonio. The fans are waiting for them to come back. It’s going to be a game we’re going to have to be mentally prepared.”

Aside from everything else that’s gone wrong in this series, everything was summed up in one play. While Mike Conley drew in the defense on a drive and kicked it out to Shane Battier for a corner three, five Spurs players watched as Battier received the pass, fumbled it, gathered it and hoisted it up just to see it fall through the net. Not one player tried to close out or force Battier to drive.

They had accepted defeat, but for the optimist’s sake, hopefully it was just for that one game. 

“Obviously, the whole team is very frustrated. I mean we go through the whole season and get that first seed and now we’re just one game away to be eliminated, so it’s most important for us to focus on game five,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said. “That’s the most important thing to get game five and try to get another chance to get a win here. Right now, we should only focus on game five.”

Parker, who has struggled throughout this series before bouncing back in the first half last night, said during training camp that this would be the last chance for the Spurs to win a championship with this current core in place.

One has to wonder if youth was finally served after more than a decade of dominance.

Game five will answer that question and many more.

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.

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