Leonard's heroics nullified by Gasol

Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs shooting against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Four of the Western Conference quarter-finals. He had a career-high 43 points but the Grizzlies forced the overtime win.
Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs shooting against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Four of the Western Conference quarter-finals. He had a career-high 43 points but the Grizzlies forced the overtime win.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Grizzlies centre's buzzer-beater seals OT win and ties play-off series against Spurs at 2-2

MEMPHIS (Tennessee) • Kawhi Leonard was making everything, scoring San Antonio's last 16 points in the fourth quarter and finishing with a career-high 43 points.

The Spurs star hit seven of 10 shots from three-point range, made one-legged, fade-away jumpers and put his team on his back while scoring eight of their 12 points in overtime. It still was not enough.

But in the end, it was Marc Gasol's floating jumper over LaMarcus Aldridge with 0.7 seconds left in overtime that gave the Memphis Grizzlies a 110-108 victory over the Spurs on Saturday at FedExForum to even their National Basketball Association (NBA) first-round Western Conference playoff series at 2-2.

"(Gasol) made the play that mattered," said Mike Conley, who led Memphis with a post-season franchise-record 35 points and had nine rebounds and eight assists. "It's scary as hell watching (Leonard). He was unbelievable."

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the same of the game.

"Both teams played their hearts out," he said. "Just a fantastic basketball game. The fans got their money's worth. Marc made a great shot. L.A. (Aldridge) contested it very well; it (still went) down."

But one key shot right at the rim did not go down. With 1min 36sec left in overtime and the Spurs up 102-100, Spurs guard Tony Parker stole a pass from Conley and had a fastbreak with Patty Mills. But as Mills went in for what looked like a sure layup and a four-point lead, Grizzlies rookie guard Andrew Harrison blocked him from behind.

That started a fastbreak the other way that ended with a Gasol layup, a foul by David Lee, and a Gasol free throw for a 103-102 Memphis lead.

"That was the play of the game, other than Marc's," Conley said. "For a young guy to make a play like that, that's a five-point swing. We gave it up for him in the locker room, that's for sure."

Said Harrison, who also had seven points and three rebounds: "I just didn't want to give up on the play. I thought I had a chance to hit the ball and I did."

Leonard added eight rebounds, six steals and three assists. His fade-away jumper with 12 seconds left in regulation gave San Antonio a 96-94 lead.

But Conley, who had 11 points in the fourth, answered with a floater in the lane with 4.5 seconds left to tie the game at 96-96. Leonard then missed a contested 21-footer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

It was a rare miss in the fourth quarter and overtime, when the forward was eight-of-13 from the floor and five-of-six from distance.

"Honestly, I'm taking suggestions on how to guard Kawhi Leonard," Memphis coach David Fizdale said. "I've tried everything and the guy is just tough. Man, is he a superstar."

The Grizzlies overcame 23 turnovers that translated into 31 San Antonio points.

Gasol finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

Parker had 22 points and five assists for San Antonio.

"I thought we played well enough to win the game," Parker said, and then looking ahead to tomorrow's Game Five in San Antonio: "It's a must-win situation for us now."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2017, with the headline 'Leonard's heroics nullified by Gasol'. Print Edition | Subscribe