J-Will goes against Parker.
Photo by Larry Kuzniewski
As it had been all series, it was too much Tony Parker and Robert Horry for the Memphis Grizzlies to overcome Sunday night in the final NBA game at the Pyramid, as the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs swept the Grizzlies 4-0 to end the franchises unlikely postseason debut. Parker, the fleet 21-year-old point guard whom the Spurs considered parting ways with over the offseason in order to pursue free agent Jason Kidd, and Horry, the postseason legend whom the Los Angeles Lakers declined to bring back after a shooting slump last season, both had huge series against the Grizzlies. Reigning MVP Tim Duncan had a MVP-caliber game with 26 points on 10-18 shooting, but it wasnt Duncan that buried the Grizzlies.
On Sunday night, Parker sliced-and-diced the Grizzlies halfcourt defense to the tune of 29 points and 13 assists, while Horry came off the bench to score 14 points and grab six rebounds. But it was more how they did it that demoralized both the Grizzlies and a sellout crowd hoping to extend the series back to San Antonio. The duo combined to convert eight of 10 three-point shots, leading the Spurs to 65-percent shooting from behind the arc. In the 4th quarter, after the Grizzlies had cut a 17-point deficit to 9 and brought a quiet crowd back to its feet, it was Parker and Horry who shut the door.
With 10 minutes left in the game and Parker on the bench, Pau Gasol scored over Horry on the block to cut the Spurs lead to 9. Parker re-entered the game after a Spurs timeout and immediately hit a three to bring the lead back to 12. A couple of minutes later, when a Mike Miller three-pointer cut the spread back to 9, Parker was fouled on a fastbreak, hitting both foul shots to push the lead to 11. Then Horry found small forward Bruce Bowen for an open jumper and Parker found Horry for a three that he hit with Gasol in his face and it was suddenly a 16-point game with five minutes to play and fans hitting the exits.
After the game, coach Hubie Brown was insistent on praising his team for the surprising 50-win season theyd delivered, refusing to let the playoff sweep take the shine off what had been a fabulous season. Instead, he gave credit to a Spurs team that may well be better than the version that won the title last season.
For the Grizzlies, there is now an intriguing offseason to look forward to: Gasol -- who proved in his first-ever playoff series that he can score on anyone (22 points on 10-15 shooting last night, and over 50-percent shooting on the series) but that he also desperately has to improve on little things like boxing out and defending the pick-and-roll -- and Shane Battier, who played well in limited minutes after getting into early foul trouble, will be eligible to negotiate contract extensions. Stromile Swift, who was ineffective for much of the series, and Jake Tsakalidis, who rarely saw the floor, will be restricted free agents. Bonzi Wells, who was productive for most of the series but was a non-factor last night, has an option for next season the team must make a decision on. Theres the expansion draft for the incoming Charlotte Bobcats, and the Grizzlies must decide whom to protect and whom to expose. And there will surely be trade discussions, where, one assumes, anyone on this team will be fair game.
They say the playoffs are an entirely new season in the NBA, and Grizzlies fans finally got to find out why. But the offseason is a pretty interesting season too, and this one will be crucial if the Grizzlies want to follow up their first ever playoff appearance with another next year.