The San Antonio Spurs were a 61-win regular-season team and have four championship banners hanging in their building. They took to their floor last night down 3-1 in this best-of-seven series, in a fight-for-your-life pride game in front of their hometown fans.
The night before, facing a similar elimination game at home, the Orlando Magic had won by 25.
These Spurs? They were facing a 46-win number eight seed in the playoffs for the first time as a unit, with exactly two individual rotation players who could boast any significant playoff experience. They got their best games of the series from each of their two most dynamic players — Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. They built a 16-point lead in the first half. They benefited from an officiating disparity that had impartial observers figuratively rolling their eyes via Twitter.
And, yet, it took not one, but two desperate long heaves at the basket in the final two seconds of regulation — one pure luck, by admission of its maker, Ginobili, off a broken play and near steal; the other a deep, slightly off-balance three-point buzzer-beater from an undrafted, 26-year-old rookie, Gary Neal — to even force overtime.
Through five games, these Spurs have given no indication whatsoever that they can totally shake these Grizzlies. The Spurs have won two games, both on their home floor, both in doubt into the final minute of regulation. They threw their best possible punch last night and barely eeked out a win.
So Grizzlies fans shouldn't hang their heads about what might have been. They should gear up for a wild Friday night — a Game 6 that starts a hour later than usual, at 8 p.m., on one of the busiest downtown nights ever. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. this morning.
This team — and its fans — shouldn't be distressed about what lies ahead, but eager and defiant.
Time to ante up.