Grizzlies eliminate No. 1 seed Spurs in six games

By Jeff McDonald

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On the last night of the Spurs’ season, and most likely his career, Antonio McDyess was sitting in his locker at FedEx Forum before Game 6 on Friday, reliving one shining moment.

On the screen in front of him, Gary Neal had just buried a 3-pointer to send Game 5 into overtime.

“Crazy,” McDyess said, as if watching it for the first time.

Friday night in Memphis, there would be no more miracles. There would not be enough craziness for the Spurs to force a Game 7.

In fact, when the eighth-seeded Grizzlies just did what they do — grinding out a 99-91 victory to oust the top-seeded Spurs — it didn’t seem crazy at all.

It didn’t even seem like an upset.

Zach Randolph had 31 points and 11 rebounds, taking over the fourth quarter, to lift the Grizzlies to the second round for the first time in franchise history. Memphis will face fourth-seeded Oklahoma City in the Western Conference semifinals starting Sunday.

“They were the better team,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They played better than we did in the stretch of six games.”

In doing so, Memphis pushed the Spurs into an exclusive and unwanted club, joining them with the 2007 Dallas Mavericks as the only No. 1 seeds in NBA history to lose a best-of-7 series in the first round.

Tony Parker had 23 points, while Manu Ginobili added 16 and Duncan had 12 points and 10 rebounds. But the Spurs, as had been the case for most of a first-round series that felt like a barroom brawl, could not overcome Memphis’ sheer tenacity and physicality.

“They played their asses off,” Popovich said.

For a moment, midway through the fourth, the Spurs seemed poised to pull another rabbit out of another hat.

It started with Ginobili making another Hail Mary, this one from 49 feet at the third-quarter horn, providing the Spurs hope that the fates were still with them after their overtime victory in Game 5.

After trailing for nearly every second of the game, and by as many as 14 in the first quarter, the Spurs took an 80-79 lead on McDyess’ jumper with 4:41 to play. The rugged Grizzlies, with an orneriness mirrored best by pugnacious coach Lionel Hollins, would not let the Spurs have a Game 7.

Hollins called timeout, and Randolph took over. In the next 2:30, Randolph scored 10 points, beckoning the Grizzlies to ride to the second round on his back.

“We rode him like he was an English war horse,” Hollins said.

Said Randolph, who scored 17 in the fourth: “I just wanted to get the ball in my hands and get into the paint.”

While Randolph was a one-man wrecking crew, Memphis buckled down on defense, doing what the championship-era Spurs used to do in tense postseason moments: Get stops on demand.

By the time the Spurs surfaced for air, Memphis had taken a 91-82 lead with 1:11 to play.

The list of what the Spurs squandered — or, perhaps more accurately, what the Grizzlies took from them — is a long one.

Sixty-one victories. The Western Conference’s top seed. Optimism that, perhaps, Duncan’s Spurs might be positioned for one more championship run.

Instead, they left the FedEx Forum vanquished amid a hail of streamers, headed early into an uncertain offseason that could be made longer by looming labor strife.

For McDyess, who is leaning strongly toward retiring this summer, it could be the end of a 16-year career.

“We played well all season long,” Parker said. “It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t play well in the playoffs.”

Even as the Spurs lamented all that was lost, and with Popovich off to have “dinner and a Gatorade,” they had to appreciate what Memphis had accomplished.

Casting off their winless playoff history, the Grizzlies went from the lottery to the second round in one season. And they went through the No. 1 seed to get there.

Crazy indeed.

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