Last night’s triple-overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs, 117 to 116, on the second night of a back to back, less than 24 hours after beating the best team in the NBA (the Golden State Warriors) on ESPN at FedExForum, felt like the kind of thing that only happens once in a while: a regular season game that rises to the level of a playoff, that everyone is watching and talking about, where the whole fate of the season, the team—even all of us, the city—hangs in the balance on a Wednesday night in December crowded around televisions watching men play basketball in a building in San Antonio, Texas.
It would’ve been noteworthy if it had been a game against any team in the league, but it wasn’t: it was against the Spurs, the all-consuming Other against which the Grizzlies have been fighting since knocking them out of the 2011 playoffs. The suffocators of joy. The annihilators of hope.
The Grizzlies hadn’t beaten the Spurs in a regular season game since April 1, 2013. We all know how the Grizzlies-Spurs Western Conference Finals went, so really, the Grizzlies hadn’t beaten the Spurs at all since then, in any game, regular season or playoff, road or home. They’d only beaten the Spurs two times out of 17 games since the Spurs were eliminated in 2011. Even with last night’s win, the record since 2011 only improves to 3–15.
This Grizzlies team is special. I, along with everyone else who watches the team, professionally or otherwise, had been talking about this back-to-back against Golden State and San Antonio for a long time now. Tempering expectations. Hoping for the best, expecting the worst—expecting to be disappointed, or at least to be shown the flaws in this Grizzlies team. They went out and topped my expectations, and shocked the basketball world—or, the corners of it who haven’t been paying attention to what’s been happening in Memphis so far this season. Last night, giving up a 23-point lead and still managing to hang on through fifteen minutes—more than a whole quarter—worth of extra basketball, the Grizzlies showed what they’re made of.
Not that we didn’t already know.
There will be time to break down the X’s and O’s, the rotations and the offensive strategies, who played well and who didn’t, and whether this success is repeateable given that Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard were both out (though Tony Allen was out for the Grizzlies, too, so neither team had their normal starting lineup). There will be time to break down our favorite plays, to talk about the fact that Zach Randolph had 21 points and 21 rebounds and single-handedly outscored the Spurs 6–5 in the third overtime to get the Grizzlies the win.
For today, just… let it wash over you. The Grizzlies beat the Spurs last night in triple overtime. Marc Gasol banked in a stepthrough 3-pointer to send it to overtime in the first place. Tim Duncan hit a bankshot of his own to send it to triple OT.
I will have more thoughts on this game once I’ve been able to process it as a basketball game instead of as a singular moment. It might have been the biggest regular season win in franchise history; I’m not sure I’m the person to pass that judgment.
This how it be.