By Teresa M. Walker/The Associated Press
Win a playoff game? Check. Win a playoff game at home? Done.
Next? Well, the Memphis Grizzlies are nowhere near satisfied just yet.
The Grizzlies are up 2-1 in their opening series with the San Antonio Spurs after a 91-88 win Saturday night, and they can take a big step toward becoming only the fourth No. 8 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed Monday night when they play Game 4 in the FedExForum.
Zach Randolph says the key is staying humble and focused after a big victory that set off a big celebration in Memphis after the franchise won its first home playoff game in its 10th season in town.
“It’s not just about winning a game or two,” Randolph said. “It’s about winning the series and not let our heads get too big with this win and stay humble.”
Grizzlies forward Shane Battier, brought back this season in a trade, is the only person to play in all of Memphis’ playoff games. He cautioned patience Sunday both for a team and fans suddenly starting to dream ahead if the Grizzlies can clinch this series.
“Well, the C word is a long ways away, two games out. There’s a lot of games and a lot of basketball,” Battier said.
“But I think … the tone was different. From the first time I was here, we came back to the Forum 0-2 every time. After winning the first game, I think people were like ‘Hey, ya know Maybe. Maybe.’ And that hope is pretty inspiring. It’s pretty cool. It’s a new feeling here.”
The Spurs are busy trying to regroup with center Antonio McDyess expecting to play Monday night after hurting his neck late Saturday night, an injury that forced him to the locker room. He practiced Sunday, but guard Manu Ginobili said his right elbow is still ailing a bit.
They are fighting a bit of their own history. With Tim Duncan, the Spurs have never won a series when they started with the home-court advantage only to lose two of the first three games. Duncan said the approach doesn’t change trailing 2-1.
“We’ve got to get a lot better at executing our game plan and being more consistent,” Duncan said. “We’ve made a lot of mental mistakes. A lot of the things we saw on the film are easily fixable if we go out there with a little better focus.”
San Antonio also needs to communicate a bit better after failing to take a timeout late, which had Ginobili desperately trying to find someone to pass to when Marc Gasol and Mike Conley kept him from attempting a tying 3-pointer. The NBA’s best 3-point shooting team during the regular season also needs to find its shooting stroke after going 2 of 15 Saturday night.
Ginobili credited the Grizzlies with making it tough for the Spurs to get open looks from the corner, and he said he and guard Tony Parker made mistakes not finding teammates open in the paint.
“We’ve been one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league for 82 games. They’re not falling now,” Ginobili said. “We either have to find a way to get our teammates or guys more open, or we’ve got to attack more or do something else.”
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said six of nine Spurs are shooting under 40 percent. The Spurs have been outrebounding the Grizzlies, a stat Popovich thought would be a big key coming into this series.
“I’m thrilled with and surprised with, but it was our goal. But we didn’t expect to be shooting this poorly,” Popovich said. “And they deserve some credit for that. Their closeouts have been great. They’ve packed it in and done a really good job defensively.”
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said the Grizzlies have to keep defending the 3-point line, while watching for the Spurs attacking the basket.
“So we’ve got a two-edged sword that we’re dealing with, and it’s going to be a battle throughout the series,” Hollins said.
One mistake the Spurs won’t make again is leaving Randolph open beyond the 3-point line. The power forward hit the clinching 3 with 41.9 seconds left when Duncan went toward the paint, thinking Randolph wouldn’t attempt such a shot at that point of the game. Duncan is expected to be on Randolph even more as the series goes on.
Randolph had 25 points, but the man who averaged a career-high 12.2 rebounds during the regular season needs to improve on the boards. He had only five rebounds in each of the past two games.
The Grizzlies also need to play four full quarters. They jumped up 52-42 at halftime only to watch the Spurs outscore them in each of the third and fourth quarters. The Spurs tied it twice, but couldn’t take the lead.
Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo remembers when Memphis couldn’t protect such leads, and he said this proves they learned from those mistakes. Now they’re focused on getting four wins.
“After we stole the win in San Antonio, our mindset was just to protect our home court, so if we do that, all is well,” Mayo said.
AP freelance writer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tenn., contributed to this report.