But I still wasn't prepared for the final 1:44 of this game.
First of all, TNT basically said, "Screw this exciting Nuggets-Thunder game. We're showing the end of Grizzlies-Spurs no matter what. It felt like the kind of coverage a TV station would give to a natural disaster. The whole thing felt surreal.
Anyway, let me set the stage. Shane Battier had gone 1-for-2 at the line to give Memphis a 91-86 lead. Then Manu Ginobili did Manu Ginobili things and drew a foul on Marc Gasol. Manu, cold as ice, knocks down both foul shots. Griz 91, Spurs 88.
Memphis milks the clock which leads to an end-of-possession 21-footer by Z-Bo. Despite his three-bomb from earlier in the series, not the shot the Grizzlies wanted. Tim Duncan rips down the rebound. Outlets to Ginibili. Manu drives into a crowd and for a split-second I'm absolutely certain he's going to either hit one of his patented Laws-of-Physics-changing layups or draw the foul. Instead, he turns it over. This, to me, feels like the nail in the Spurs' coffin.
Memphis again milks the clock and their possession ends when Tony Parker blocks Mike Conley's running jumper. Only Conley gets the ball back! But the shot clock! Sam Youn rushes a three! No good! Duncan with another clutch rebound!
Seconds -- yes, literally, seconds -- after Duncan's rebound, George Hill converts a tough layup with 37 seconds left. Griz 91, Spurs 90. Unconsciously, I start clenching my fists, possibly due to Phoenix Suns playoff flashbacks. Memphis calls timeout.
The Grizzlies run a full 24 seconds off the clock and their possession ends when Z-Bo calmly sinks an 18-footer and then puts his finger to his lips to silence the crowd. Zach Randolph: Clutch Shot Maker. My mind if fucking blown. Griz 93, Spurs 90, 13 seconds left.
Gregg Popvich calls timeout and makes some offensive substitutions: Matt Bonner for Antonio McDyess and Gary Neal for Parker. The chunk of my brain that contains my pettiness almost explodes with glee. Ha ha! Suck it, Tony. No clutch time for you!
Instead of forcing a three, Manu swoops in for a layup. Bonner fouls Randolph. Four seconds come off the clock. Griz 93, Spurs 92.
Z-Bo, a 75.8 percent foul shooter, sinks both freebies. Griz 95, Spurs 92. Pop calls a 20-second timeout.
During a Spurs possession in which seemingly every single Memphis player could have stolen the ball, Ginobili heaves a desperation three from the corner with 2.2 seconds left...SPLASH! GAME TIED! GAME TIED!
Video review reveals what the Grizzlies bench already knew: Manu's toe was on the line. Richard Jefferson fouls Randolph with 1.7 on the clock. Griz 95, Spurs 94.
Z-Bo again steps to the line. Now, I'm thinking, this guy hits three-fourths of his foul shots on average. He hit his last two, which means he's going to miss one of these, right? Wrong. Zach hits 'em both. Griz 97, Spurs 94. Only 1.7 seconds left.
Popovich calls another 20. Spurs line up for their last-second gambit. Suddenly, and I'm not making this up, this moment crosses my mind and I think: "The Grizzlies must know Gary Neal is a 42 percent three-point shooter. They must know that. Mustn't they?"
Now, it was a good play, with a good moving pick by Duncan, a good move by Neal to get Tony Allen on roller skates, and finally a great clutch bucket. But, damn, the one thing you can't do in this situation is give up a three-pointer. You only have to play 1.7 seconds worth of defense. Unbelievable.
Said Randolph: "They're down by three, you've got to run them off the 3. You can't let nobody shoot an open 3. You've got to contest the 3, you've got to deny the ball."
Added Shane Battier: "Come on, we're on the road. It wasn't going to be easy. And we needed 48 minutes. We didn't need 47 minutes and 59, 58 seconds and three-tenths. We needed the full 48 to get it done."
But they didn't get it done. Memphis succumbed in OT. Final score: Spurs 110, Griz 103. And, once again, the Spurs live to fight another day. As Basketbawful reader Brian put it:
I'm not sure what to make of this victory. I mean, all things being equal, the Spurs should have lost this game. Does this win mean they're going to stage a comeback? Or was it a final, desperate gasp? I guess we'll find out in Game 6.
Shane Battier, quote machine: "They are like vampires. You gotta drive the stake through their heart. And we missed."
The Philadelphia 76ers: The backdrop for this game was a rather laughable War of the Words between LeBron James and Spencer Hawes.
It began when LeBron referred to Game 5 against the Sixers as "Just finishing our breakfast." Which, admittedly, was pretty dismissive and characteristically douchy. But can we really be surprised by anything King Crab says anymore?
Update! In all fairness to LeBron, here's the full quote (via kazam92): "We're just finishing our breakfast, honestly. Just finishing the 76ers off, we’re not looking ahead into the next round. Just finish these guys off. This is a very good team we're playing against, it's going to take a collective group, all of us, to close this series off."
I guess that wasn't so bad.
Hawes took offense anyway: "We not only took exception to the quote, but to the analogy. A lot of times people don't finish breakfast. It's kind of one of those deals where you're not very hungry in the morning, and you might take a couple of bites to get you going, and then you roll out the door ... Not a great analogy, I don't think."
Okay. I preferred Lou Williams' response. From SBNation: "Williams reportedly went around the Sixers locker room assigning breakfast food roles to each player, dubbing Marreese Speights 'Fruit Salad,' Andres Nocioni 'Huevos Rancheros,' Hawes 'Over Easy,' Thaddeus Young 'Hash Browns' and himself 'Flapjacks.'"
I've gotta give it to the Philadelphia players: They tried to make LeBron eat his words. Ha. Ha. Anyway, the Sixers fought to the bitter end and got to within a single point (92-91) with 36 seconds left. But they didn't score again and Dwyane Wade, rather than just dribbling out the clock, decided convert Philly's final, hopeless miss into a last-second (and utterly needless) dunk.
Way to stay classy, Miami.
Said LeBron: "Now we're preparing for lunch."
You do that, 'Bron. I hope you choke on it.
In the final analysis, what cost the Sixers this game was their group decision to completely ignore Mario Chalmers. I get why they did it...but it doomed them. Chalmers drilled six three-pointers and finished with the highest plus-minus score of the night (+20). And although Super Mario erupting for six triples seemed about as likely as me announcing a secret love affair with Kobe Bryant, the fact is Chalmers is an NBA player and can hit wide open shots on occasion.
As Philly discovered.
Said Chalmers: "They kind of forgot about me. I made them pay."
Elton Brand, quote machine: "That was a long buffet. We kept coming. We didn't give up."
Spencer Hawes, quote machine: "Four out of five games, it came down to the last minute, down to the wire. It sounds cliche, but a couple bounces here and there you don't know which way it can go."
The Denver Nuggets: And the dream ends.
You've gotta give those Nuggets some major credit, though. They weathered countless months of 'Melodrama and still managed to win 50 games and actually played better without their departed superstar. And let's face it: This series was close. Three of Oklahoma City's wins came by a combined total of 10 points. This was one of the closest 4-1 series I've ever seen (much like Chicago's series against Indiana).
But, for all their scrappy, can-do spirit, the Nuggets needed a superstar down the stretch. So did the Thunder. Only they had one.
Mind you, Denver was leading 91-82 with about three and a half minutes to go. It really, really looked like the Nuggets were going to force a Game 6. Then, over those final 210 seconds, Kevin Durant scored 14 points on 5-for-6 from the field and 3-for-3 from the line while the Nuggets scored only 6 points. During that stretch, Denver was 1-for-7 from the field and Ty Lawson bricked two foul shots.
The Nuggets got had two chances to tie the game in the final 10 seconds, but J.R. Smith had his three-point attempt blocked -- by Durant of course -- and Aaron Afflalo misfired on a three-ball at the buzzer.
Said Durant: "I just tried to seize the moment and take advantage of it. They kept feeding me the rock, I was able to get to some good spots and fortunately I made some shots."
Added Nick Collison: "Kevin just took over. It was a pretty unbelievable performance."
That's superstardom for you. Talent can clean up a lot of messes. And it's why the Thunder won despite shooting 36.6 percent from the field and going 6-for-24 from downtown. Of course, it also helped that they forced 18 turnovers, grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and had a 42-21 advantage in free throw attempts.
Free throws, rebounds and turnovers. The silent killers. Glancing at the four factors, it's amazing Denver nearly won. They turned the ball over 17.1 percent of the time while the Thunder rebounded 32 percent of their missed shots and had a FT/FGA% of 41.5 percent.
Said George Karl: "We didn't close out this game, we didn't close out Game 1 and ... they're both very difficult to swallow right now. We will somewhere in the next week or wake up and realize that we had a hell of a season."
They really did. Too bad the dream had to end.
Bonus Video: The Durantula's highlights from last night:
Chris' Playoff Lacktion Report: Hamed Haddadi stepped in for Z-Bo with 0.7 seconds left in the 1st half...and played only to the end of the 2nd quarter, earning himself a SUPER MARIO GALAXY!