Gregg Popovich and Turnovers, Zach Randolph and Free-Throws: Spurs Survive in OT again, Lead 3-0 in West Finals


Gregg Popovich doesn’t like turnovers.  After San Antonio committed five turnovers in the game’s first four minutes, Gregg Popovich was angry.  Seven minutes into the game, Popovich removed his entire starting five.  By the end of the first quarter, with Memphis leading 29-13, the Spurs had committed eight turnovers, leading to eleven Memphis points.
Popovich is notoriously harsh on sideline reporters, whom he is obligated by the league to answer two questions from at the end of the first or third quarter during nationally televised games.  Joe Posnanski wrote a must-read profile of Popovich detailing the ways in which sideline reporters should not to talk to Popovich, among other things.  http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/51591848/
Last night’s interaction with ESPN’s Doris Burke:
Doris Burke:
“What happened offensively in that period?”
Gregg Popovich:
“Turnovers.”
Doris Burke:
“What about on the defensive end, where they had their most productive quarter?”
Gregg Popovich:
“Turnovers.”
(If the conversation continued for the next few minutes…)
Doris Burke:
“Pop, what’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?”
Gregg Popovich:
“Turnovers.”
Doris Burke:
“Any chance you’ll be taking the team to see the new Star Trek movie on the day off tomorrow?”
Gregg Popovich:
“Turnovers.”
Doris Burke:
“What do you think of Lionel Hollins’ job on the Memphis bench?”
Gregg Popovich:
“Turnovers.”
Doris Burke:
“Tony Allen is really good at causing….”
Gregg Popovich:
“Turnovers.”
Doris Burke:
“You must really hate….”
Gregg Popovich:
“Turnovers.”
Memphis blew another golden opportunity in Game 3, after a perfect start.  Gradually, the Spurs just wore them down again as the Grizzlies offense ground to a halt in the Grindhouse, managing only 57 points over the final three quarters of regulation, and 7 in the overtime period.  Coming back from 2-0 down was a possibility, especially considering the fact Memphis had done it in the first round (Blake Griffin’s ankle helping them win four straight), but dropping both Games 2 and 3 in overtime will be too much to overcome.  Teams don’t win four straight after going down 3-0 in a playoff series.  Only three teams have ever managed to force a Game 7.  There is reason to believe this series will not end quickly.  It would be something of a shock for Memphis to drop Game 4 at home, given how far they’ve come and how good they’ve been playing defensively.  Still, it’s a long climb back from 3-0.  All non-San Antonio fans should be disappointed we don’t have a 2-1 series.  If Mike Conley’s cruch-time runner doesn’t float long, Memphis wins in regulation.
Charity Stripe Not so Charitable for Zach Randolph
Free-throws are about a relaxed kind of concentration, repetition of movement, and confidence.  I loved shooting free-throws growing up.  I practiced them.  I counted my shots.  My goal was always 20 out of 25.  Take five at a time.  Five sets of five.  Count your makes as you go.  Multiply by 4 at the end, and you get your percent.  80 percent was my goal.  In one middle school town free-throw competition, called the “Hoop Shoot,” I had my minor moment of glory, by beating the town shooting legend, a red-haired leprechaun of a child (he was shorter than every other middle-schooler), named Kevin Flood.  I found a rhythm and hit 21 of 25, beating Kevin by one shot.  It felt great.
Missed free-throws are always magnified in hindsight, when a team loses a big game, that magnification is justified.  In Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, they were painfully important.  Memphis went 10 of 18 at the line, missing four more than their regular season average would dictate.  During the regular season, Memphis finished 9th in free-throw shooting at 77.3% (www.nba.com/stats), but the Grizzlies went 1 of 3 in the third quarter, with Randolph 1 of 2 and Pondexter 0 of 1.  The fourth quarter misses were huge, Memphis going  7  of 11 from the line in the fourth.  The free-throw line run-down: Randolph 2 of 4, Tony Allen 2 of 4, Gasol 2 of 2, Conley 1 of 1.
For his career, Zach Randolph is a 75% free-throw shooter.  Randolph, a big-man who up-fakes, and spin-moves are the basis for his low-post game, earns his living at the line.  Randolph shot 73.5% from the line in Round 1 against the Clippers, 72% in Round 2 against OKC, but has missed more than half of his free-throws against San Antonio (7 of 16, 43.5%).  Based on the 75% career average, Randolph has missed five more than he typically would, going (12 of 16).  Five misses in Game 2 and four more in Game 3.  Memphis could be leading this series with a few more points at the line.  When two of the three games are tied at the end of regulation, every point in crucial.
Looking back at Randolph’s career, he has been excellent at the line in the playoffs…until last year’s seven game joust with the Spurs. Randolph had his worst series ever, averaging 3.1 makes in 5.0 attempts, for 62.9% in last April’s first round series.  Lionel Hollins needs to find Zach a sports psychologist before Monday, and help him remember how good he’s been at the line for his entire career.
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