It took seven quarters, in which the Spurs outscored Memphis by 34 points, but the Grizzlies may have found a viable solution against San Antonio's pack-the-paint strategy — spread the floor with Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter to make them pay for doubling Zach Randolph in the post.
Another fortuitous circumstance — the nominally foul-averse Tim Duncan, averaging 2.5 fouls per 36 minutes this season, picked up his fifth personal foul with 7:36 remaining in the fourth quarter — attributed to the Grizzlies' fourth quarter rally. With Duncan on the sidelines, they rattled off a 15-2 run in the final eight minutes to bring the game to overtime.
A well-rested Duncan scored six points in overtime to put the finishing touches on a narrow 93-89 victory in Game 2. But, instead of heading home searching for answers, Memphis already has tangible evidence that San Antonio is mortal.
If the Grizzlies late rally is the impetus behind an inspired Game 3 performance, don't be too surprised. Spurs guard Manu Ginobili wouldn't be surprised either.
"Yeah it might," Ginobili said. "We're going to see how Game 3 goes. They did much better in the third quarter, they scored a lot. They scored more points in the third quarter than in the whole first half."
Memphis made half of their shots in the second half, in addition to 20 free throw attempts — an essential offensive byproduct. They crashed the boards, finished at the rim (after missing 16 of 25 shots in the paint, Memphis closed by making 13 of their next 24) and only coughed the ball up three times. Memphis basketball. Grit, grind, no mistakes.
When Hollins flanked Randolph, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol with Bayless and Pondexter, just about the only reliable perimeter shooters on the team, the results were promising; the Grizzlies outscored the Spurs by 16 points per 100 possessions in the 10 minutes they logged together, per NBA.com. Their starting lineup, meanwhile, has been crushed by 34.3 points per 100 possessions while turning the ball over 18.6 times per 48 minutes. Not pretty. They needed a change, any change, to give themselves a chance.
There is one caveat, however. Duncan wasn't on the floor for most of the rally. The Grizzlies haven't been good during his minutes this series. They've only mustered an 81.7 offensive rating — about 22 points per 100 possessions fewer than their post Rudy Gay trade mark — and, even worse, have made a frighteningly low 31.7 percent of their shots inside five feet. The numbers improve dramatically when the Spurs sit Duncan, so perhaps these new lineups tweaks aren't as lucrative as they seem.
Memphis can't afford to look at the negatives. A brief stretch where they enforced their will, and weren't decimated by ball movement on defense, could be a good place to start.