For the first seven quarters of this year’s Western Conference Finals, it looked like the Grizzlies didn’t even belong in the same arena as the Spurs. For much of the 4th quarter in Game 2, the Grizzlies weren’t faring much better, but they hung around and went on a 7-0 run at the end to force overtime. Tony Allen did his best to sell a fast break foul (see above) by Manu Ginobili and turn it into a flagrant (2 free throws plus the next possession). Mike Conley’s off-hand floater tied the game and gave the Grizzlies a chance to take Game 2 in overtime. The Spurs, mostly led by Tim Duncan, put the Grizzlies back in their place in the extra period; the Spurs would win by 4.
It’s looking a little perilous for Memphis. Their comeback in the 4th quarter of Game 2 provides a glimmer of hope, and they can look back to last year’s conference finals — when Oklahoma City lost the first two games to San Antonio but then won the next four — as a precedent that can perhaps be accomplished again. It’s a long shot, but it’s happened before. To basketball fans unaffiliated with the four teams remaining, the coming-of-age Grizzlies have drummed up quite a bit of admiration and excitement these playoffs. It hurts to see them struggling. My last post stated that Memphis should have a good chance of going to the Finals; I still stand by that, but my confidence in that is now shaky.
I doubt many fans want to see a Spurs and Heat series for the championship. It would be LeBron’s chance to redeem himself after getting swept as a Cleveland Cavalier by the Spurs in the Finals in 2007, but does that really fire anybody up? The Heat would still be the favorites. If that is the matchup we’re to see, you can take solace in seeing the Heat face tough competition: those venerable, timeless Spurs, who could really give Miami a run for its money.
But let’s not count out the Indiana Pacers yet. They have yet to face off against Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. To me, they were one of the least exciting teams in the Playoffs, but their fundamentals have got them to this point, and they’re nothing to overlook. I didn’t think they would make it past New York, but how quickly they proved me wrong.
I think Indiana might take a game or two from Miami, but ultimately we should expect Miami back in the Finals — for the third straight year. They could be facing off against San Antonio, but don’t count Memphis out yet. Somebody just has to poke the bear and wake the Grizzlies up.