The San Antonio Spurs needed overtime to beat the Memphis Grizzlies, 104-93, on Saturday night, moving within one game of sweeping their way to an NBA Finals berth.
The Grizzlies roared out to a 19-5 lead, not allowing a point until the 7:45 mark and forbidding San Antonio from reaching double digits until there were 28 seconds left in the first quarter. By the end of the frame, Memphis was up 29-13.
But the Spurs, in typical Spurs fashion, didn't panic and chipped away at the lead. They won the second quarter by a count of 27-15 and trailed by just four at the break.
Memphis held them mostly at bay in the third, leading by one heading into the fourth, but almost immediately, Danny Green hit a three-point shot that put the Spurs up 67-65. It was San Antonio's first lead of the game.
The teams traded punches all the way down to the end of the fourth. Tony Allen broke an 82-82 tie with a free throw at 2:22; Manu Ginobili put San Antonio up one with a layup a minute later; Marc Gasol hit a jumper on the next possession to give Memphis a one-point lead.
With under a minute to play, Ginobili hit two free throws to put the Spurs up 86-85 but fouled Allen on the other end. Allen hit 1-of-2, tying the game at 86, then rebounded a Ginobili miss with 19 seconds to play.
With the ball in its hands and a chance to win, Memphis got Mike Conley an ugly, off-balance layup that didn't even graze the rim. San Antonio's lockdown defense ensured that we would see overtime.
The Grizzlies would come to regret bungling that last possession. San Antonio went on a 9-1 run during the extra frame, aided by two baskets from Tiago Splitter, to take a decisive edge. Memphis had the ball down six with 90 seconds left, but a Marc Gasol miss, followed by a Tony Parker and-1, was enough to clinch the game.
Player of the Game: PF/C Tim Duncan (SAS)
And suddenly, as if by magic, the whole "Duncan didn't deserve first-team All-NBA" argument has disappeared.
Duncan provided his team with a little bit of everything, exactly when they needed it. When Memphis rolled to an early game lead, Duncan rallied the defense for quarter No. 2. When San Antonio needed someone to create his own shot, Duncan scrapped up seven points in the overtime frame.
Duncan spent the year adding vital footnotes to his impressive resume. If he continues to play at this rate, the book might need a whole new chapter.
San Antonio looks to close out the series in Memphis on Monday, where Game 4 will tip off at 9 p.m. ET.
If necessary, Game 5 in San Antonio tips off at the same time on Wednesday.