Finish off the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” Spurs center Tim Duncan said Sunday before a short practice. “We know they’re not going to lay down. We’re going to have to beat them. We understand what we have going here, and we understand that we want to finish is as quickly as we can.”
The Spurs wasted a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference final a year ago when Oklahoma City won four straight games.
They know time is running out for their current Big Three, featuring the 37-year-old Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili along with coach Gregg Popovich. The franchise is in its 16th straight postseason has four NBA titles but hasn’t played in the Finals since 2007 at a time when Ginobili recalls the Spurs were being called old even then.
San Antonio are up 3-0 after rallying from an 18-point deficit in the first quarter Saturday night and winning 104-93 in overtime. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili took turns scoring points in the fourth quarter and beyond after the Spurs played so ugly in the first 12 minutes that Ginobili said Sunday he still wasn’t sure how they won.
It certainly didn’t hurt that the Spurs had a three-day layoff between Games 2 and 3 with both going to overtime. If they win Game 4 on Monday night and sweep the Grizzlies on out of the postseason, the Spurs can rest up until Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips off June 6.
“We want to finish as soon as we can for a lot of different reasons,” Parker said. “I think that we should give them no hope, and it’s always sweet to win on the road. I’m pretty sure the whole team understands that we have to keep taking nothing for granted and keep playing our game and try to finish tomorrow.
The Grizzlies find themselves in the exact same position as this franchise’s first postseason in 2004 _ trying to avoid being swept by the Spurs. San Antonio finished off that sweep, and history shows all 107 teams leading 3-0 in a best-of-seven series have never lost.
But Memphis is the first team in NBA history to fall behind 0-2 and win four straight by double digits.
The Grizzlies did just that in the first round in knocking off the Clippers, then ousted the West’s No. 1 seed in Oklahoma City. Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins played for Portland when the Trail Blazers fell behind 0-2 against Philadelphia in the 1977 NBA Finals and won four straight for the title.
“My hope though is for us to not listen to you guys and say that it’s never been done before, that it’s just a matter of time before the series is over and to reach down in their soul and dig for something that they didn’t know they had because that’s what you have to do to win a championship,” Hollins said.
The Grizzlies know they easily could be up 2-1 right now if they just finished in regulation each of the past two games. Guard Mike Conley missed the basket on a drive at the buzzer when Memphis had the ball last Saturday night. The team that set the NBA record once losing its first 12 playoff games hasn’t been swept in the postseason since 2006.
“We have a lot of pride in this team, in this city,” Conley said. “It’s more than just basketball here, and we owe it to ourselves, owe it to the fans to not get swept and get embarrassed on our home court.”
The Grizzlies’ biggest challenge is shooting better, both overall and at the free throw line. They shot only 39.2 percent (38 of 97) Saturday night and would not have needed overtime if they hadn’t gone 10 of 18 at the free throw line. Zach Randolph is only 7 of 16 at the line after not even getting a free throw attempt in Game 1.