Blog Entry

Grizzlies-Spurs: A question of luck or fate.

Posted on: April 28, 2011 12:59 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 1:38 am
There are times in sports when you wonder what the line is between fate and luck. Manu Ginobili's improbable step-back and Gary Neal's desperation 3-pointer make up one of those times. 
Posted by Matt Moore

O-Ren Ishii: "You didn't think it was going to be that easy, did you?"

Beatrix Kiddo: "You know, for a second there, I kinda did." 

- "Kill Bill"

"I don't think we showed the heart of a champion. We got lucky."

-Manu Ginobili via Chris Vernon on Twitter

What's the difference between luck and fate? What separates grit, will, determination, and the ability to make the biggest plays from abject desperation and the right bounce at the right time? How do you define what's true greatness and what's the unpredictable flow of random events? The lens of sports is such an infinitely trivial window trough which to view such things, but after Grizzlies-Spurs 5, the most wild game of the most unpredictable series in the 2011 NBA playoffs, those are questions that have to be running through the mind of everyone who has borne witness to what happened in San Antonio, Texas. 
The scene:

The 4-time champions were up against the ropes, and up against an upstart 8th seed who has dominated what feels like at least 16 of the 20 quarters played. Down three points after a flurry of clutch free throws from Zach Randolph; the redeemed All-Star for a small-market franchise. A tipped ball. Another tipped ball. And then, of course, Ginobili. 

There was an inbounds pass. It was tipped up in the air. It was tipped again. It landed in Ginobili's hands. A desperation heave, good. The tip goes any other direction, the game is over. The ball isn't tipped, the Grizzlies may be in position to defend the shot, and the game may be over. But it winds up there. And Ginobili hits it. Afterwards, after what happened later, he's the deferential. He admits it was luck. But was it? How many times have we seen him hit that kind of shot? I've kept track in this series. Ginobili has hit four 3-pointers off of broken plays. Does that invalidate them? The opposite. How big is it when you can make a non-possession into a 3-pointer? How much can that change a series that has seen three of the five games decided by five points or less (not including the overtime period in Game 5)? You have to believe that, if that shot wasn't due to Ginobili's undeniable focus and concentration, there was some sort of intervention by whatever you choose to reference as the "Basketball Gods". Random chance? Perhaps. But, if so, then the Spurs have a keen way of turning those instances of random chance into points. Maybe that's just "valuing each possession." 

But even then, his foot was on the line. It's just a two. Are you kidding me? The Grizzlies have avoided the dagger? All they have to do is hit free throws, deny the 3-pointer, and it's done? How kind can those Basketball Gods be to a franchise that drafted Hasheem Thabeet? Z-Bo sinks two free throws. Clutch, from the player so often derided for not being "a winner." Just deny the 3-pointer. That's all that separates Memphis and the proverbial "Shock of the World." 

The inbounds, you can deny it to Manu, you can deny it to Parker. But you're going to have to let one of the others get free. Gary Neal? Sure. The undrafted rookie the Spurs picked up in Europe and really decided to keep in Summer League? Sure. He can have it. O.J. Mayo will contest, but from that distance, with the series on the line? There's no way. There's just no way. 

Buckets. Onions. Glory. Pain. The whole thing. Sports. 

In overtime, and the Grizzlies had no legs. There's nothing left. Parker does his damage. The Grizzlies fight back, but not enough defense. The shots fell, and that's what happens. Spurs win. 3-2, going back to Memphis, and all the pressure is on the Grizzlies now. Lose in Game 6, and that feeling, the one where it was so close they could taste it when the ball was tipped on the Ginobili possession? It's going to be the opposite. The knowledge that it's all slipping away. The Grizzlies have fought through being the underdog. They've fought through being without homecourt advantage. They've fought through being down 16 in a desperation elimination game for the opponent, on that team's home floor. 

But can they fight the Basketball Gods? 

At some point you recognize that things fall into place for teams, in part because of those random chances, and in part because of that team's determination to seize the moment provided. It wasn't that Memphis didn't seize them. It's simply that the Spurs were granted them. 

In the larger scheme of things, this was simply a Game 5 between a perennial power and an upstart trying to establish some sense of legitimacy. The veteran team executed down the stretch, by hook or by crook. But you still have to wonder, where is that line between fate and luck, and how, in the name of Naishmith's Nets, did that just happen? 

Game 6 is Friday, in Memphis. 

Since: Apr 15, 2011
Posted on: April 28, 2011 5:32 pm

Grizzlies-Spurs: A question of luck or fate.

So Manu Ginolbli hasn't been one of the most clutch guys in recent history and these guys are not professionals who practice these kinds of drills every day? You're right cheating and luck.

Since: Apr 28, 2007
Posted on: April 28, 2011 4:04 pm

Flat out Cheating

Bob Delaney should be investigated by the FBI after last night's game. I bet Tim Donaghy agrees with me.

Since: May 20, 2007
Posted on: April 28, 2011 1:09 pm

Grizzlies-Spurs: A question of luck or fate.

Yes, the Spurs barely squeeked by in this game, but hey, isn't that part of what this great game of basketball is all about?  The broader picture is the Spurs had to have this game, period.  And, by golly, they figured out how to get it done.  Was it pretty?  No.  But was it effective?  Yes it was, and in the end that is all that really matters.  It was the win the had to have.  Now the Spurs still have an uphill battle in this series, but they are a well coached, veteran team with a lot of talent.  Can they still do it?  Yes.  Will they get it done?  Well that's why we play the game:  to find out.  While the odds aren't greatly in the Spurs favor, they can find out a way to do it.  I'm not ready to write off this Spurs team just yet.  When you have Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili really anything is possible against virtually any team in the NBA.  On paper the Spurs should have won this series, easily.  So I say they are still very much alive.  Game 6 should be a great one, and congratulations to the Grizzlies for a great series so far.

Since: Jun 20, 2007
Posted on: April 28, 2011 11:57 am

Grizzlies-Spurs: A question of luck or fate.

Luck (but who doesnt win without any luck on your side)

I'd like to first start off by saying how impressed I am by the Memphis Grizzlies, they have shown me a lot.  I didnt give them a chance to beat the Spurs much less take us to the brink of elimination.  As a Spurs fan it has been hard to watch these games as they have taken us out of our normal flow that we have been in this season.  I had Gasol on my fantasy team and I wish he played like this all year and maybe I would have won :)  With that being said this was a great game.  This is the spark I think the Spurs needed to get them over that hump.  Its not going to be a cake walk by any means, but if Bonner and Jefferson could somehow make a shot here or there we may be back in SA for game 7.  The one gripe I have on last nights game was Neal makes the 3 to take it to OT but gets no PT in OT?  I think he deserved to play that out.  I know what POP was thinking leaving Jefferson in as he is bigger and stronger and will be better at handling their post up game, but he was what got us there, I say leave him in.  Lets play Game 6 like we played the last 5 minutes of OT and then anything can happen.  Go Spurs GO!!

Since: Mar 3, 2011
Posted on: April 28, 2011 11:10 am

Grizzlies-Spurs: A question of luck or fate.

To everyone who replied "luck", have you seen a Spurs game this year? Manu is known for his crazy shots and Gary Neal is a clutch player.  Coach Pop drew up a great play and it was well exicuted! GO SPURS GO!!!! GAME 6 will be a Slugfest

Since: Apr 7, 2009
Posted on: April 28, 2011 10:05 am

Grizzlies-Spurs: A question of luck or fate.

Ginobili believe's it was luck as well.

Since: Apr 7, 2009
Posted on: April 28, 2011 9:58 am

Grizzlies-Spurs: A question of luck or fate.


BUT....Why didn't the Grizz foul immediately after the inbound pass was made, after all they were up 3.  Great game, but Grizz are the better team right now and should close it out in the next game.

Since: Mar 22, 2011
Posted on: April 28, 2011 7:11 am

Grizzlies-Spurs: A question of luck or fate.

Oh, it's luck.
It's luck because Memphis outplayed them  virtually the entire series.
It's luck becase the shots that were thrown up were desperation shots more so than well executed clutch shots.
It's luck because the Grizzlies did everything right to close out that game (in oposition to those who claim that this is a merely upstart team who couldn't close) - they hit their freethrows and defended the shots well.
I'm not saying this to downplay what the Spurs did or take credit away; my point is this - to think that the Spurs being down only 3-2 in what looks like a close series by number is indicitive of how this series has really gone is just wrong. The Spurs have been outmatched by, if not a better team, a team that just matches up against the Spurs well. If I were a Spurs fan I wouldn't feel comfortable at all.
Also, I don't think the Grizzlies are going to be disheartened going into the next game, this team is pretty tough it seems I think they're going to play with a chip on their shoulder.

Since: Sep 19, 2006
Posted on: April 28, 2011 3:03 am

Grizzlies-Spurs: A question of luck or fate.

lucky fate.

Since: Jun 13, 2007
Posted on: April 28, 2011 2:33 am

Grizzlies-Spurs: A question of luck or fate.

The SBC Center or whatever it is called these days has been home to some of the most awesome shots in recent NBA postseason play.  However, before the SBC Center, in the Alamodome, there were Sean Elliott's two three pointers in the last seconds of Game Two that seemingly sealed the 1999 WCF against the Portland Trailblazers.  In the 2003 WCSF there was Robert Horry's three point attempt in Game Five where the ball had gone below the rim and popped out preserving the Spurs victory.  In the  2004 WCSF, there was Derek Fisher's 0.4 second heave that won Game Five for the Lakers. In the 2006 WCSF, there was Ginobili's off balance three point shot in Game Seven that gave the Spurs a three point lead and should have iced the game except for Ginobili's over aggressive play on Dirk at the end.  In the 2008 first round against Phoenix, there was Michael Finley's three pointer that sent the game into overtime, then Tim Duncan's three pointer that sent the game into a second overtime.  Then last night's game with the Ginobili and Neal shots.  I am biased because I am a Spurs fan, but the SBC center seems to be turning into a Boston Garden with all the strange happenings.  If nothing else, it would be great for the Spurs to advance because who knows when the next history making shot is going to be.

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