SAN ANTONIO – There were just over 41 seconds left in the rugged, ragged affair when Zach Randolph launched a desperate 3-point heave and Manu Ginobili finally to put a wrap on things by battling, swinging his elbows and clamping down like a bear trap on the decisive rebound.
“That is a good team, a very, very tough team,” Ginobili said after the Spurs finished off a 107-97 win.
At the other end of the AT&T Center in the Grizzlies locker room, Rudy Gay looked down at his shirtless body and tried to count up all of the bloodied scratches he could find – on his neck, both shoulders, his chest, his stomach, one leg.
“Yeah, it was that kind of game,” Gay said.
And it could be that kind of series again sometime in the next couple of months.
While Bulls and Heat were going overtime to settle what is a likely preview of the Eastern Conference finals, it is quite possible that the Spurs and Grizzlies were giving a peek at what could be the tastiest matchup in the Western Conference finals.
A year ago it was No. 8 seed Memphis turning in the shocking upset of the No. 1 seed San Antonio and taking Oklahoma City all the way to a seventh game in the second round.
Even though they’ve lost all four games against the Spurs this season, the Grizzlies are feeling just as feisty and capable. Last year it was an upset and the Spurs said they were handicapped by Ginobili’s elbow injury. So Memphis is ready to do it again.
“I’m not where I was a year ago health-wise,” said Randolph, who missed 2 ½ months with a knee injury. “But we’re prepared pretty good right now as a team. We’re ready to do it again.”
Let the Bulls and Heat have the spotlight and headlines in the East.
I’ll take Spurs-Grizzlies in the West for The Rematch. Tough, physical, relentless, bruising, bloody.