Nobody could blame Spurs coach Gregg Popovich for being in a foul mood after he watched the Grizzlies manhandle his team in the second half of Monday’s Game 4 at FedEx Forum in Memphis.
In fact, fouls committed by the Spurs in the pivotal first four minutes of the third quarter seemed to bother Popovich as much, or more, than any aspect of a 104-86 loss that has the Spurs on the brink of elimination from the playoffs.
The Spurs committed three turnovers during the Grizzlies’ game-turning 14-0 run to start the third, but Popovich was more surprised by his team’s inability to defend without fouling.
Rookie center Tiago Splitter started the Grizzlies’ parade to the foul line when he committed a shooting foul against Marc Gasol just 42 seconds into the period. He committed a second shooting foul, on guard Mike Conley, 73 seconds later. In between, Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili picked up personals, so George Hill’s foul on Tony Allen with 9:19 remaining in the quarter put the Grizzlies in the bonus for the remainder of the period.
By quarter’s end, Memphis had shot 12 free throws and made 10.
“I would never expect that we would play that badly to start the third quarter in a game that we were playing pretty well in overall and actually leading and have an opportunity to play those first minutes just in a solid manner,” Popovich said.
“So sure, I was surprised, more about the fouls than the turnovers. We’ve been capable of turnovers before, but we’ve been a great team all year as far as not fouling, so that was really out of character.”
Ginobili, whose only personal of the game came in the third-period foul fest, had no good explanation for the spate of fouls.
“Usually they are the team that fouls a lot and sends us to the line early,” he said. “In that third quarter, in three minutes they were in bonus and we kept fouling in bad situations. So we gave them the ball and said, ‘OK, you score from the line.’ And offensively, we were just dry. Those two things compounded for a horrible third quarter.”
HOLLINS HOLLERS: The inspiration for the Grizzlies’ third-quarter surge apparently came from head coach Lionel Hollins.
Players described an irate head coach challenging them to play with more intensity and physicality from the outset of the second half.
“He ripped us,” Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo told reporters.
Leading scorer Zach Randolph verified Mayo’s account, saying Hollins “definitely had some choice words.”
Hollins enjoyed the response he got.
“The second half,” he said, “was just incredible to watch. It was an incredible performance in the third and fourth quarters. From the second quarter on, our defense just kept getting better and better and more aggressive.”
GRIZZLIES WARY: The Grizzlies gathered as a team at center court after Monday’s victory to steel their resolve for tonight’s Game 5 at the ATT Center.
“We understand that we have not won anything yet,” Gasol said. “It was a good game. We know how loud their place can get, and we need to be ready.”