Game 3 of David Fizdale’s NBA playoff equivalent of “A Very Few Good Men” tips off in Memphis on Thursday night. And you can expect to see the following in a first-round series that so far has been almost more newsworthy for what’s happened off the court than on.
Fizdale, who insists the NBA can’t stand the truth, went all-in about the league’s crack officiating in a blistering post-game tirade after Game 2. Tony Allen, the Grizzlies’ best defender, can’t get on the floor. And Vince Carter and Tony Parker continue to defy time.
So here’s what I assume happens at the FedExForum.
1, The Grizzlies will get a few calls in their favor. That’s a few, as in all of them.
I’ll be stunned if Memphis — down 2-0 — doesn’t get at least twice as many favorable whistles — maybe three times — as San Antonio, which knows it’s payback time. Of course, the Spurs figure to lose one game or two at the most, and Thursday’s is the most likely. Never mind that the Spurs went an impressive 30-11 on the road this season. That’s with and without bad officiating.
But the crew assigned to this game would like to be able to leave Memphis without police protection, and human nature being what it is, any refs that are actual human beings would be inclined to right the wrongs committed against the Grizzlies.
The league office doesn’t want the perception that NBA officiating favors any one team even though everyone knows the league favors Cleveland and Golden State in another rematch. TV ratings and all.
2. Fizdale will get a standing ovation when he’s introduced.
The rookie Grizzlies coach went all Jack Nicholson on the officiating crew of Game 2. Absolutely got his money’s worth. He paid homage to Gregg Popovich, who intimidates refs, media and small children, but The Fiz said he was tired of being treated like the Spurs’ doormat even though Memphis is, well, the clear Spurs’ doormat with 10 straight post-season losses to San Antonio.
The Fiz shouldn’t have been fined $30K. He should fine the NBA. If the officiating is as horrendous as it was Monday night when, if memory serves, Kawhi Leonard shot somewhere around 300 free throws, the league at minimum should grant the offended coach a one-time mulligan. So, Adam Silver, give the Fiz a pass.
3. Mike Conley has to take Draymond Green 101 Villain Classes in the offseason.
The cuddly Conley, maybe the most lovable point guard in the league, has never gotten a technical. Ever. Not in pee wee basketball, not in middle school or high school. Probably not even in his driveway. The guy needs a mean streak. Love Conley, but the man needs to growl or snarl once in a while.
Even Leonard changed facial expressions once in Game 2. He either winced or offered a furrowed brow at one point. It may have come when he forgot if he paid his electric bill or something, but it was noticeable. Take some cues from your coach, Mike.
4. Kawhi Leonard will have a bad game.
Yeah, it’s relative because few outside of the Warriors’ Green fills up a box score like the reigning two-time NBA defensive player of the year. That could mean mortal numbers like 25 points and 12 rebounds, which would qualify as a terrible game for the best player in the game who has scored 69 points in two games, 63 of them, I think, at the free throw line.
5. The Grizzlies go unorthodox.
I’m assuming Memphis will go to some sort of bizarre strategy, maybe a box-and-1 defense with the entire box guarding Leonard and the lone Grizzlie left to, uh, play a one-man zone. I mean, can it hurt? The Griz have to make someone else beat them and hope Parker realized he’s pushing Carter and is almost 35. Start Zach Randolph, David.
6. Take That For Data becomes the new slogan for the Grizzlies.
No one was sure what that meant when Fiz spewed out the venom at the end of his press conference, but his delivery was impeccable. Yeah, it sounds more like a wireless carrier phone catchphrase, and “Can You Hear Me Now” has already been taken. And, yes, Fiz, we can hear you. He threw it out with such disdain, it was impressive.
OK, so it’s not “Three-peat” or “Win One for the Gipper.” But “Take That For Data” will live on for decades. Besides, it’s so much cleaner than ‘We Got Screwed by the Refs and the Spurs But Then We Always Do.” That just doesn’t fit well on a banner.
7. Game 3 is meaningless.
Bring on the Rockets, in other words.
This series was over when it was scheduled. Memphis is far too offensively challenged. Allen hasn’t played a minute yet, and 40-year-old Vince is hardly a fair match for Kawhi. Oh, and then there’s the officiating. Did we mention that?