Gary Neal just made everyone in Memphis calm way the hell down. At least for a day or so.
With 1.7 seconds left on the clock and the Grizzlies up by three, Neal was able to get open at the top of the key and punch every Grizzlies fan in the country right in the stomach.
The miracle shot sent the game to overtime where the Spurs scored on their first three possessions and were able to pull away with a 110-103 win that kept them alive in the series.
The Grizzlies knew closing the series in San Antonio would not be easy, evidenced by Tony Allen’s much quoted (and sure to be much more quoted now) phrase that “you never underestimate the heart of a champion.”
That phrase was repeated often late in the first and for much of the second quarter, as the Grizzlies struggled and at one point trailed by more as much as 18.
The third quarter however, turned the tide for the Grizzlies, much like it did in game 4. The Grizzlies outscored the Spurs 26-15 in the quarter and retook the lead, not relinquishing it until overtime.
But the Spurs never gave up. Down three late in the game, Gregg Popovich called for a quick layup dive for Ginobli, which he made. Zach Randolph made two free throws, keeping the lead at three.
Just a few game seconds later, at the tail of a busted play, Ginobli made an off-balace shot from right at the arc that was initially ruled a three-pointer. Game tied? No. Official review said Ginobli’s left toe was on the line, Grizzlies lead was at one.
Zach Randolph made two more free throws to keep the lead at three. The Grizzlies were 1.7 seconds away from ending the series.
Popovich called timeout and sent in Gary Neal. Of course he did. Neal led the NBA in three-point percentage for the regular season with 42%. He called a play to shoot the three from the top of the key. It worked, Neal got open, and nailed it at the buzzer.
It was the stuff that sports legends are made of (if you’re a Spurs fan) and the kind of thing to complain about for maybe decades (if you live in Grizz Country).
It could be a momentum changer for the series, or it could just be an amazing play that helped the Spurs stave off elimination. Everyone will know soon enough. Game six, in which the Spurs still face possible elimination, will be held Friday night in Memphis.
Note: Playoff tickets for game six go on sale for the general public at 10:00 a.m. Thursday Morning.
EDIT: As of 10:05 a.m., game six is sold out. Yes it only took five minutes… The game will begin at 8p.m. and broadcast locally on sportsouth and nationally on ESPN. As with previous games, the Grizzlies will host a pregame party in front of FedEdForum. The pep rally starts at 6 p.m.
For Grizz playoff coverage that doesn’t make you throw up a little, check out the Top Five Everything of Game Four, our Game Four recap, the Top Five Everything of Game Three, our Game Three recap, our take on the game one win, and for some further back nostalgia, our Top 6 Beards of the Playoff Run.