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WCF Game 3: No Business Winning

By Daniel Strickland on May 27, 2013.

San Antonio 104, Memphis 93
San Antonio leads series 3-0

It was the kind of game that any team, including the Spurs, had no business winning. Especially not on the road. Especially not in a Western Conference Final.

After 11:50 played, the Spurs trailed by 18. Offense was sloppy. Defense was even sloppier. During the end-of-quarter interview, Pop had a simple one-word explanation for the team’s lousy play:

It seemed bleak, but for some reason I wasn’t concerned. Quite frankly, Pop didn’t seem that concerned, either.

In the huddle, Pop said the team’s seven turnovers in the quarter was probably “a record” and said “it was just one quarter,” imploring them to “move on.”

“It was one of the worst starts I’ve ever seen,” Popovich said.

And move on they did. It wasn’t always pretty, and at times it was downright ugly, but the Spurs slowly dug themselves out of the hole they had dug themselves into.

“The first half, I was grandfatherly,” Pop said. “The second half — what word can I say — I was ugly. I wasn’t going to watch [the turnovers] again. … It was a real test of their character to continue to pound and pound and pound. I’m really proud, not really their effort so much, but their ability to mentally hang in and stick with each other and play.”

Ploddingly, methodically, workman-like even, by the end of the half the Spurs had whittled an 18 point deficit down to 4, thanks to stifling defense that created turnovers by Conley and Allen, and a balanced attack led by Parker (8 points) and Duncan (7 points).

By the end of the third quarter, a single point separated the two teams. By the end of regulation the game was tied.

In the overtime, Tim Duncan took over.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

We’ve seen the Spurs win games like these before. I was at Staples Center last May when the Spurs got shot out of the building by the Clippers in the first quarter, trailed by as many as 24, but somehow, miraculously even, came back to win by 10.

Three weeks ago, we watched the Spurs fall further and further behind the Warriors in San Antonio, only to come back and win in double overtime.

If the Spurs win tonight, it will make two sweeps in three series, and 12 wins in 14 games.

I fully expect the Grizzlies to play to win tonight. They’re a proud team and they’ve faced adversity like this before. But the Spurs are playing like a team possessed. If they play well tonight, and have a chance to close out another series on the road, you better believe they will. They’ve already done it twice this season.

Go Spurs Go

* * * * *

Remember how magical last year felt?

After the Spurs swept the Jazz, then swept the Clippers, they went up 2-0 on the Thunder. Then the unthinkable happened…

This year feels magical, too, but in a different way. Maybe it’s because the Spurs have shown a special knack for winning this year, even when they have no business doing so. Or maybe it’s because the Thunder are out of the way and the Heat seem vulnerable.

No matter. A fifth title is feeling less and less like a pipe dream and more and more like a distinct possibility.

The next three weeks should be a lot of fun.

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