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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Grizzlies finish off Spurs before raucous home crowd


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — These Memphis Grizzlies just keep making NBA history — and believers.

News photo
Going down: San Antonio's Gary Neal falls after being fouled by Memphis' Shane Battier (3-1) during Game 6 of their first-round playoff series on Friday. AP PHOTO

Zach Randolph had 31 points and 11 rebounds and the Grizzlies advanced to their first Western Conference semifinals and made NBA history in knocking off the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs 99-91 on Friday night.

Memphis had been the franchise best known for empty seats and the unenviable NBA mark for playoff futility at 0-12 after being swept in its first three appearances. This time, a third straight sellout crowd cheered every basket with a couple of signs begging the Grizzlies to "Finish Them" in a town desperately needing a hero.

The Grizzlies needed 10 seasons in Memphis to do it, but they have become just that as only the second No. 8 seed to upset a No. 1 seed since the NBA expanded the opening series to a best-of-seven.

Now Memphis coach Lionel Hollins sees a great opportunity for the Grizzlies to do something really special.

"Not a lot of people knew about us coming in, but we certainly have made some noise and turned some heads and got some attention that probably wouldn't have been given to us if we had lost this series," Hollins said. "We would just be another eight seed losing to the No. 1 seed."

They will open the second round in Oklahoma City on Sunday.

Marc Gasol had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Memphis. Tony Allen added 11 points, and rookie Greivis Vasquez had 11 off the bench playing 24 minutes with Mike Conley in foul trouble most of the game.

Tony Parker led San Antonio with 23 points, Manu Ginobili had 16, Tim Duncan 12 and Antonio McDyess 10.

The Spurs led only twice at 2-0 and again at 80-79 when McDyess hit a 5-meter jumper with 4:41 left.

That's when Randolph, the man cast off and unwanted before he arrived in Memphis in the summer of 2009, took over and scored 17 of the Grizzlies' 29 points in the fourth quarter.

"From a pick-me-up perspective, we just got on his back, and we rode him like he was an English warhorse," Hollins said. "He was really carrying us, We were just hanging on."

Randolph scored 10 of the next 14 for Memphis, with his hook putting the Grizzlies ahead to stay at 81-80. Conley added a jumper, then Randolph hit a fallaway jumper, two free throws and another fallaway jumper for an 89-82 lead with 1:55 left.

Randolph went to the bench to a huge cheer with 3.4 seconds left.

"Emotion is high, not just for the Memphis Grizzlies but for the whole city of Memphis and the fans," Randolph said. "It's something. It's a great accomplishment. We've got to be happy. We should be happy. But it's a quick turnaround. We've got a game Sunday, and we have to get ready."

The Spurs, winners of 61 games in the regular season and the dynasty with four NBA titles with Duncan, turned the ball over three straight times while Randolph was putting away this franchise's biggest win. One desperate pass from Ginobili went right off Parker's hands.

"We played well all season long," Parker said. "As you know, it doesn't mean anything if you don't play well in the playoffs, and overall Memphis played better than us. Have to give them credit."

Thunder stay focused


Edmond, Okla. — Oklahoma City Thunder players earned a day off after becoming the first Western Conference team to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs.

But they didn't take it, choosing instead to show up at the team's practice facility Thursday. They followed that up with a rugged practice and scrimmage Friday.

"Everybody came in and got their work in so that shows a lot," center Kendrick Perkins said. "So today, guys worked hard at each other. We had a great practice."

The Thunder will open against Memphis at home on Sunday.

Coach Scott Brooks gave his players the option of coming in Thursday after securing the first-round series victory over Denver the night before.

At Friday's practice, Brooks said the players were "very focused and committed" on getting better. He said the session emphasized defending the paint and various pick-and-roll schemes, along with working on the team's own offensive sets.

Practice ended with a scrimmage of two quarters, during which Perkins said they "ran our plays real hard."

Brooks said his team is young and athletic enough to run a hard practice and scrimmage between series, which, in turn, is helping the team keep its edge.

"The guys were really focused and at the very end the two scrimmages we had were probably some of the best scrimmages we've had all year," he said.

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