By The Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Zach Randolph is known for being a beast in the paint. Now his feathery touch from outside helped the Memphis Grizzlies keep making history.
Even though it’s not the shot anyone expected — except the big power forward.
Randolph scored 25 points, including a clinching 3-pointer with 41.9 seconds left, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the San Antonio Spurs 91-88 Saturday night for the franchise’s first playoff victory on its home court.
“One would probably think that you’d like Zach to shoot the 3 rather than continue to lay it in against you, so it was a heck of a shot and part of the playoffs is about making shots,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Shane Battier passed the ball to Randolph and said later he wished he could take credit for the busted play.
“I think there was a collective holding of the breath at the Forum when that shot was in the air, and it went through,” Battier said. “It was one of those moments where it’s like: ‘No, no, no, no, no, yes. Yes.”
These Grizzlies have been busy this postseason at the Spurs’ expense. They opened this series with their first playoff win, and now the No. 8 seed has a 2-1 lead over the Western Conference’s best team during the regular season. Memphis is trying to become just the fourth team to knock off the top-seeded team.
Game 4 is Monday night in Memphis.
Marc Gasol scored 17 points, Mike Conley had 14 and O.J. Mayo had 10 off the bench for Memphis.
Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 23 points. Tony Parker had 16, Tim Duncan 13 and George Hill 11.
The Spurs only led early and never by more than 1, the last at 12-11. They fell behind by as much as 15 before managing to tie it up twice in the final 8:06, the last at 80 on a Ginobili free throw.
Parker’s reverse layup pulled the Spurs within 88-86 with 1:04 left. The Grizzlies took a timeout, and Randolph looked for an option with the shot clock ticking down, then he put up the 3-pointer over Duncan’s outstretched arm. The ball fell in with 41.9 seconds left for a 91-86 lead that sparked fans to chant his nickname “Z-Bo, Z-Bo.”
“It was 5 seconds on the shot clock,” Randolph said. “I had a little space to see it, so I just shot the shot. It went in, but that’s the shot I work on and I practice every day shooting so it felt good when it left my hand.”
Duncan said he didn’t think that Randolph would try that shot so late in the game.
“I leaned back and tried to make sure that there wasn’t’ a quick big-to-big roll, but he hit a 3 from that range. It was a great shot,” Duncan said.
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said the play was designed to feed the ball inside to Gasol. When Duncan didn’t come out on Randolph, Hollins said he knew the power forward would shoot away. Not that he’s complaining.
“I’m happy we’re where we are,” Hollins said. “We could be in that other position in that other locker room, so it’s nice to be where we are. And it’s nice to get a victory at home in front of our fans in a playoff game. That’s special as well because they’ve been wanting one and hoping for one, and we came in and got it the first opportunity.”
Ginobili hit a pair of free throws with 31 seconds, but the Spurs couldn’t get off a shot coming up the right side at the end. Ginobili got stopped and looked like he was trying to pass while Duncan tried to call timeout. He was too late as the horn sounded, sparking a big celebration.
“I thought we had a little more time,” Ginobili said.
He credited Gasol and Conley with playing tight defense on him to keep him from getting a shot off and forcing him to try to toss the ball out toward the top of the key.
“But no, there wasn’t enough time,” Ginobili said. “But now it’s easier … I wish we had called a timeout or done something different.”
Gasol said there was no way he was going to let Ginobili take a 3.
“I didn’t care. You can do whatever to get a two. You’re not going to shoot a three,” Gasol said.
The Spurs managed to outrebound Memphis 48-37, but the Grizzlies had a 44-40 edge in the paint as they worked the ball inside to Randolph and Gasol. They also had a 17-9 edge on the fast break against the Spurs. The NBA’s best 3-point shooting team was a meager 2 of 15. Memphis hit only 4 of 11, including Randolph’s big 3.
Antonio McDyess went to the locker room with 2:56 left in pain. He was diagnosed with a neck strain with X-rays negative and his status now day to day. Popovich spoke without knowing McDyess’ status and said it didn’t look good.
The Spurs thought getting Ginobili back and winning Game 2 got them back on track. But San Antonio ended the regular season losing six of their final seven road games, and Memphis won 30 of its 46 games in the FedExForum. The Grizzlies also had just the fifth sellout crowd of the season rooting them on.
Memphis tapped into the city’s past by bringing out wrestler Jerry Lawler to help fire up the sold-out crowd after a party outside the FedExForum in anticipation of the Grizzlies’ first home playoff game since 2006. One fan had a blown-up cutout of Eva Longoria’s head with a Grizzlies’ headband, and it was held up near courtside trying to taunt Parker.
“Did you see that building?” Mayo said. “That was the difference. It was just unbelievable. Our crowd, everybody up swinging a white towel, and everybody on the same sheet of music. If you want to know the difference, it was that home court.”
All the excitement may have been too much as Memphis, with eight Grizzlies in their first home playoff game, missing six of its first seven shots. They settled down and hit nine of the next 11.
The Spurs had made an NBA-best 58 free throws through the first two games, more than the Grizzlies had even attempted. Gasol picked up a foul on the Spurs’ first possession, except Duncan hit only air on his first attempt while clanking the second off the front rim.
The Spurs’ last lead in the first half came when George Hill tipped in a shot at 12-11. Gasol put Memphis ahead with a three-point play, kicking off an 18-8 spurt that left the Grizzlies up 29-20 at the end of the first quarter. The Grizzlies pushed that lead to as much as 15.
NOTES: Randolph was 8 of 43 from 3-point range during the season and had attempted only one in the postseason before his clinching shot. … With Duncan, the Spurs have never won a series they started with home-court advantage only to lose two of the first three. … Memphis had been 0-4 in the playoffs at the FedExForum and 0-6 overall at home.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.