Tony Parker on the verge of making a reservation for the NBA Finals
There was a lot of time between Games 2 and 3 of these Western Conference finals, so much so that news came out that Tony Parker couldn't get a table at a Memphis restaurant. On Saturday, Parker proceeded to start making arrangements for the Spurs in the NBA Finals.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Proof that there was a lot of time between Games 2 and 3 of these Western Conference finals came Friday when news broke -- seriously, it was treated as breaking news, at least on social media -- that Tony Parker couldn't get a table at Restaurant Iris.
Was he denied service in Memphis because he plays for San Antonio?
Was the owner, chef Kelly English, wrong to turn Parker away?
Was Eva Longoria somehow involved?
This was the storyline that dominated this series for a good 16 hours. So, needless to say, tipoff couldn't arrive soon enough here Saturday. And when it did, the Grizzlies took an 18-point lead that suggested they were on their way to making this a 2-1 series and sending a soldout crowd of 18,119 into the bars on and around Beale Street energized and, most important, still believing in the growl towels they wave.
"But ... we didn't panic," Parker said. "We played our game and came back."
Boy, did they ever.
That deficit was cut to four points at the half, to three points after three quarters and completely erased when Danny Green sank a 3-pointer on the first possession of the fourth. Ultimately, and thanks to the Grizzlies' terrible final possession in regulation, the game went to overtime, at which point the oldest great player in the world -- his name is Tim Duncan; he's 37 -- turned young again, scored six straight points for San Antonio and propelled the Spurs to what eventually became a 104-93 win.
So now this series is 3-0, San Antonio.
And now it's pretty damn hard for Memphians to still believe.
And now, Duncan is sitting in the Spurs' locker room and sipping a beer because, I mean, wouldn't you sip a beer if you started the day having to address questions about your pending divorce and ended it with a 24-point, 10-rebound effort that put you one win away from a fifth career trip to the NBA Finals?
"We haven't been there in forever," said Duncan, who actually meant since 2007. "Obviously, we have one more game to win to get to that point. But I'm excited about the opportunity to get there."
And, at this point, it's difficult to envision a scenario in which the Spurs don't get there, if only because no NBA team has ever blown a 3-0 advantage in a seven-game series. Also worth noting: the Grizzlies still haven't figured out how to control Parker in the pick-and-roll, still haven't figured out how to space the floor properly and make room for Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to operate, still haven't figured out how to not get out-executed in the five minutes that come after the first 48.
The Grizz and Spurs have taken two of the three games in this series to OT.
The Grizz scored four points in those five minutes in Game 2 on Tuesday.
They scored seven points in those five minutes on Saturday.
So now, their final home game could come Monday.
"It's hard to explain," said Grizz guard Tony Allen. "It's an awful situation that we're in."
Not to mention a tough spot for this city that, after years of losing seasons laced with irrelevance, has finally been able to enjoy something nice. Understand, this day was the most anticipated day that Memphians have ever experienced in terms of professional sports. It was a big deal that the Western Conference finals were happening here, that a blimp was hovering over downtown, that a trip to the NBA Finals could be reasonably predicted.
But now what?
Maybe the Grizz can win Game 4.
But then they'd still be underdogs in Game 5. So there probably wouldn't be a Game 6. And even if there were a Game 6 and the Grizzlies won a Game 6, Game 7 would be back in San Antonio, where the odds would again be stacked against them. So you can understand why folks are suddenly less enthused.
This magical run doesn't feel magical anymore.
The conversation has, in less than a week, shifted from "The Grizz might be best suited to challenge the Heat" to "The Grizz only made the Western Conference finals because Russ Westbrook got hurt," and the byproduct was fans exiting the arena quietly, some even before the final horn sounded. Meantime, Duncan was sipping a beer, talking about how he doesn't feel old even if he keeps getting called old, and Parker was in a red shirt, big smile on his face, well aware he might get shut out of a high-end restaurant in this city but that there's no way the Grizzlies can keep him out of the lane.
Seats at Restaurant Iris?
Yeah, those can be tough to get.
But now Tony Parker has other reservations.
He's basically booked for the NBA Finals.
He'll need a table for team, please.
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