The San Antonio Spurs shook off a sluggish start and dominated overtime to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 104-93 on Saturday and move within one victory of reaching the NBA Finals.
The Spurs posted their second straight overtime triumph to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals series.
The winners of the set will face either Miami or Indiana for the NBA title and the Grizzlies go into Game 4 on their home floor today knowing that even if they fend off elimination they face a daunting task.
No team has rallied from an 0-3 deficit to win a seven-game NBA playoff series.
San Antonio’s veteran star Tim Duncan scored the first five points of overtime. He scored seven of the Spurs’ 18 points in the extra session, finishing with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
“He was huge the other night in overtime and he did it again tonight,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Duncan, who connected on an open jumper, converted a three-point play when he was fouled making a layup and added a tip-in in overtime.
“That’s why he is considered as great as he has been for the last 17 years,” Popovich said. “He feels responsibility to carry us in those situations and he did it again tonight.”
Point guard Tony Parker scored 26 points and handed out five assists, while Manu Ginobili chipped in 19 points and pulled down seven rebounds as the Spurs rallied from an 18-point first-quarter deficit.
They did not lead the game until Danny Green drained a three-pointer 15 seconds into the fourth quarter.
San Antonio built their lead to as many as six points with 10 minutes left in regulation, but Memphis chipped away with the help of three-pointers from Mike Conley and Quincy Pondexter.
Conley had a chance to give Memphis the victory in regulation, but he was off target with a running layup in the face of determined Spurs defending.
Conley finished with 20 points, but made only eight of 21 shots from the floor. Marc Gasol finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds for Memphis, while Zach Randolph scored 14 points with 15 rebounds.
“We came out with great energy,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “We just couldn’t sustain it. We subbed, tried to get some rest, but we didn’t get production from people off the bench and then we couldn’t rev it back up when we got back to our starters.”
The Grizzlies looked to be on their way in the first quarter, when the Spurs missed their first five shots and gave up five steals in less than four minutes.
Popovich was so irked he took the unusual step of pulling all five of his starters at once.
The deficit rose from 11 to 18 points, but when his starters went back in it was with renewed focus.
“It was one of the worst starts I’ve ever seen,” Popovich said, but added that he was proud of his team’s ability to “mentally hang in and stick with each other, and continue to play.”