SAN ANTONIO — It was the kind of night when you expected Tim Duncan to take the court wearing flip-flops, Tony Parker in straw hat and sunglasses and that annoying Manu Ginobili to be squirting SPF-50 in the eyes of the Grizzlies.
After all, the Spurs were coming off the most infamous vacation since Mitt Romney’s dog took a road trip strapped to the roof of the family car.
But in the end, it was hardly a day at the beach.
The Spurs had to come from 14 down in the fourth quarter and get through five more minutes of overtime to deliver the kind of 99-95 drama that commissioner David Stern had wanted for the TNT audience on Thursday night from Miami.
When the Big Three plus Danny Green didn’t stick around for that affair and, under the orders of coach Gregg Popovich, flew home for a few extra days of R&R, it touched off the kind of up-from-the-ground fire that used to send out a call to Red Adair.
So perhaps it was only natural that the players at the center of the controversy were motivated to provide and extra spark of their own to defend their coach after the $250,000 fine.
Call it “Win One For the Tripper.”
“We definitely have always got Pop’s back,” said Parker, who had eight of his 30 points in the overtime. “I felt like it was for Pop. I wanted to be super aggressive and make sure we win the game.”
Though none of them would say it, this was their way of sticking a thumb in eye of the commissioner for meddling in their team business, a quarter-million-dollar zinger, so to speak.
It was the Grizzlies, playing the second night of a back-to-back, who looked frazzled, worn out and just plain gassed coming down the stretch.
Prior to the game, Popovich spoke about the fine for the first time and said he was “disappointed” in the league’s action, but did nothing else to ruffle the feathers of the league office.
“What I do from my perspective is a coaching perspective,” Popovich said. “I think the league operates from a business perspective, and that’s reflected in the action they took.
“That’s that, and we move on.”
Memphis still has the best record in league, but the fresher down the stretch Spurs proved their point. That they made their biggest move by climbing out of such a fourth-quarter hole only made the whole thing more delicious.
“I really just tried to come out and play hard,” said the 36-year-old Duncan, who had 27 points and 15 rebounds and his highest-scoring first half since 2004. “I got some shots going early and continued to attack.”
“I felt good in overtime,” said Parker with an extra twinkle in his eye. “I had two days off. So I felt like I had a lot of energy.”
Win One For the Tripper. Message delivered.