Just one game today, but what a game. The Memphis Grizzlies pulled off a historic win over the Spurs, winning that playoff series 4-2 and becoming just the second 8th seed to ever upset a No.1 seed in the playoffs. I was focused on the NFL draft for most of the day, but I wasn’t going to miss the bulk of this game for the world.
3 Points – Zach Randolph. No question who gets the honours today. I’ve written a fair bit about Z-Bo so far these playoffs so I won’t bother repeating myself – but he was absolutely unstoppable today. 31 points and 11 rebounds says it all, but his performance had to be seen to be believed. I never once felt the Grizz were going to lose tonight once I realised that Z-Bo was going to carry the team on his own if he had to. Never, ever thought I’d say that about him.
2 Points – Marc Gasol. Randolph’s big man partner in crime was equally efficient tonight, scoring 12 points and continuing his dominance of the glass this series with 13 rebounds. One thing that has to worry Memphis fans just a little is that Gasol is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. While owner Michael Heisley has been more willing to spend his money on players in recent times (extending Rudy Gay and Z-Bo for probably over market value) Gasol is an under-30 true center in a league with not too many under-30 true centers. A team with some cap room and a hole in the paint (cough…Warriors…cough) will chase him with big money. The onus is on Heisley here – to keep Gasol will probably mean going into the luxury tax, which is a stretch for any team, never mind a small-market team without a deep-pocketed owner.
1 Point – Greivis Vasquez. My former drinking buddy (well, one party a couple of years ago while he was at UMaryland and going out with my cousin’s best friend) chipped in off the bench tonight with 11 points in 23 minutes. I always give love to guys I’ve seen drunk above all.
I can’t help but feel that this game will go down as the moment when the Spurs dynasty of the past decade and a bit finally ended. The signs were there when they lost last year’s playoffs to Phoenix, but most people were suckered in by their regular season success while not realising that their playing style during the regular season:
a) did not really account much for Tim Duncan and was primarily centered on the guards
b) was not sustainable in the playoffs for that reason, and plus it was the same helter-skelter, run and gun game the Spurs have picked apart with so many teams before.
Tim Duncan isn’t done as an NBA player – not yet – but I think you’d have to say Father Time has finally caught up with him as a consistently dominant force. He can probably still play a few more years, but going forward the Spurs will have to revamp their playing style. The result will probably be something similar to what we saw from them during the regular season, centered around Parker and Manu (and hopefully George Hill in the future). Where this takes them is anyone’s guess. But this game somehow feels like the end of an era.
Retro Playoff Diary:
2009 Day 14 – Luck of the Irish
2010 Day 14 – Boozer, Jazz set for encounter with Kobe and the Durant-stopper