“Im taking suggestions on how to guard Kawhi Leonard ‘cause I’ve tried everything and the guy is just, he’s tough,” Fizdale said, shifting gears from a question about his team’s 23 turnovers during his postgame press conference. “Man, is he a superstar.”
Fizdale hit the nail on the head: Leonard is indeed a superstar. It’s the reason why he’s constantly mentioned alongside Russell Westbrook and James Harden in this year’s Most Valuable Player of the Year race. It’s the reason why the Spurs finished with the the Western Conference’s second-best record with a senescent roster.
And it’s the reason why Memphis should be wary of heading back to San Antonio for Game 5. Leonard doesn’t like to lose and with the series knotted up, he’s going to do everything he can to deliver a vicious blow on his home court.
So you heard the Grizzlies’ coach. The suggestion box is open.
The Spurs were up 102-100 with with 1:36 to go in overtime. With this Tony Parker steal and pass to Patty Mills, the Spurs were about to go up four points late with all of the momentum. But Andrew Harrison had other plans. This blocked shot led to a Marc Gasol basket that instead tied the game. If the Spurs go up four late on this play, the game was trending toward San Antonio. If they win, they head back to San Antonio up 3-1 which makes it extremely tough for the Grizzlies to survive. Gasol would go on to hit a game-winner and now the series is tied 2-2 heading back to San Antonio.
Conley and Leonard combined for 78 points, 17 rebounds, several big-time shots and one Game of the Year nominee.
The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs gave the basketball universe its best game of the playoffs so far with a down-to-the-wire showdown where each team’s biggest star set new playoff career-highs, exchanging blow for blow down the stretch.
Conley scored 35 points in 42 minutes, shooting 13-of-23 from the floor in the Grizzlies’ victory. He nearly put up a triple double, adding on nine rebounds and eight assists in one of the best games of his career. He put up 11 in the fourth quarter, stabilizing a Memphis team in shambles with its floor general on the bench to help fend off a rallying San Antonio squad attempting to steal a game on the road.
It was a masterful follow-up to his 24-point, eight-assist outing in Game 3, and the Grizzlies’ floor general had it going all night long.
But Leonard is an All-Star starter for a reason.
He turned in a Herculean performance that featured a playoff career-high with 43 points on 14-of-30 shooting, scoring San Antonio’s final 16 in the fourth quarter. Leonard erased an eight-point deficit with under five minutes left in regulation to force overtime, and his pull-up jumper over JaMychal Green with just 12 seconds left gave the Spurs a two-point lead with valuable time ticking.
That’s when Conley responded with a game-tying floater to send the contest into extra time.
Conley delivered when the Grizzlies needed him most.
Memphis looked like a lottery team when its floor general went to the bench.
With a shortage of timeouts in the fourth quarter and the Spurs clawing within three, David Fizdale had to choose between buying Conley some time on the bench or inserting his guard back into the game. He decided to stop the bleeding.
In a tightly contested game, the Grizzlies outscored the Spurs by not much with Conley on the floor. It was games like Saturday’s that Memphis envisioned when it inked its starting point guard to a $153 million contract, the most lucrative in NBA history.
But Leonard gave the Spurs everything he had.
When the Grizzlies seemed to have the game in the bag in overtime, Leonard activated Terminator level 5,000.
First, Leonard hit a triple to bring the game within two points:
Then after Conley missed a free throw on the other end, the MVP candidate hit a corner three to tie the game.
Leonard became the first player in NBA history with more than 40 points, more than five steals and more than five threes made in a playoff game.
And the Spurs lost.
That’s how good Game 4 was. It was an all-out war between two teams that find a way to meet each other almost every season in the playoffs. The series is now tied at two games apiece and it’s headed back to San Antonio, where the Spurs won the first two matches.
But the Grizzlies proved they can beat the Spurs in a variety of ways. And if both Conley and Leonard show up like they did for Game 4, regardless of who wins, the fans will come out on top yet again.