Mike Miller nearly gave the Memphis Grizzlies a spectacular win in their first home playoff game. Now their first postseason appears all but over.
Miller was just long, grazing the rim on a game-winning 3-point attempt at the buzzer. That allowed the San Antonio Spurs to escape with a 95-93 victory and a 3-0 lead in their Western Conference first-round series.
"It wasn't any one shot," cautioned Griz coach Hubie Brown, who in a pre-game ceremony was presented with the 2003/4 Coach of the Year trophy by league commissioner David Stern.
A disappointed Brown pointed out in a post-game press conference that San Antonio had pulled down 21 offensive rebounds off the boards. "You can't give that many second looks," he said. "That was the game right there."
A capacity crowd of 19,000-plus saw the game and filled the soon-to-be-deserted arena with loud and sustained cheering. At strategic moments, including several crucial free throw misses by the Spurs, the crowd waved a sea of white towels, passed out by the management before the game.
The defending champion Spurs trailed by as many as 10 points but took the lead for good, 92-91, on a lefthanded jump hook by Tim Duncan with 1:37 remaining. But San Antonio gave tghe Grizzlies numerous chances down the stretch.
Bruce Bowen airballed a free throw before sinking his second attempt to open a 93-91 edge with 28 seconds left. Bowen forced Bonzi Wells into a difficult jumper, Manu Ginobili grabbed the rebound for San Antonio and was fouled with nine seconds to play. Ginobili split a pair of free throws to make it 94-91 and, after a timeout, Memphis' Pau Gasol dunked to reduce the deficit to one point with 4.6 seconds left.
Ginobili was fouled a second later and again split two attempts, giving the Grizzlies a chance to tie or win. Miller pulled up about five feet shy of the top of the arc, but his shot bounced off the back of the rim at the buzzer.
Duncan collected 22 points and 13 rebounds and Tony Parker and Hedo Turkoglu scored 18 apiece for the Spurs, who surrendered just 36 points in the second half.
San Antonio goes for the sweep on Sunday at The Pyramid. If the Grizzlies lose, it will be not only their last game of the season, but, barring unforeseen circumstances, The Pyramid's last basketball game.
Next year both the Griz and the University of Memphis Tigers will play their games in the new FedEx Forum.