MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The elevator doors popped open outside the practice court Friday at the FedExForum, and out stepped Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale with power forward Zach Randolph, already anticipating the San Antonio Spurs’ next move in this Western Conference first-round, best-of-seven series.
As Fizdale held open the door, Randolph said he expected Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to make adjustments for Game 4.
“Pop’s not gonna let you play like that [in Game 4],” he said, before explaining that the Spurs won’t let Randolph dribble the ball five times in the paint in Game 4 the way he did the Thursday night in Memphis’ 105-94 victory.
After the Grizzlies fell behind 2-0 in the series, Fizdale sparked a movement in Memphis with his “take that for data” rant after Game 2, when he criticized officials, later receiving a fine from the league for $30,000. The coach tweaked his lineup for Game 3 to jump-start an offense that produced 82 points in each of the team’s first two losses in the series.
By all appearances, both moves paid dividends, as did the change of venue to Memphis, where a highly supportive home crowd gave the Grizzlies a pronounced advantage for Game 3. All throughout FedExForum on Thursday, fans sported “Take That For Data” T-shirts and waved Growl Towels, which featured the words “Believe Memphis” and were waiting for fans on every chair when they entered the arena.
The home crowd nearly shook the arena with cheers when Fizdale was introduced during pregame festivities, and the crowd booed Thursday’s officiating crew.
Fizdale’s rant and subsequent moves have rallied the fan base and the team, giving the Grizzlies some momentum as they try Saturday to even the series at 2-2 against a heavily favored San Antonio Spurs squad.
“If it rallied our fans, then that’s a good thing,” Fizdale said.
But the truth is it also galvanized the roster.
“Man, it’s togetherness,” veteran Vince Carter said. “Like I said, you can’t show weakness against a championship-caliber basketball team, a proven championship team. So for us, it’s just stay the course. We haven’t done anything. We haven’t accomplished anything. We were still down two. Right now, we’re just good enough to survive to get us to the next game and not go home. So everybody felt like we had to bring our A-game and play as close to a perfect game as possible to have a chance to win. I was just proud of everybody sticking to the game plan, everybody sticking together and staying the course. As exciting as it is to come home to play, they [the Spurs] can take that excitement away after the first quarter. I think we did a great job of just staying in the moment, not really going overboard with the excitement, and concentrating on the most important thing, and that’s the game.”
Randolph agreed, adding that Fizdale’s rant gave the Grizzlies a little extra juice.
“Yeah, it did. We all were pumped, just playing hard,” Randolph said. “Fiz said what he said, made his point, and we’ve just got to go out and play hard. Man, the crowd is great. They’ve been like that every year we’ve gone to the playoffs. So, them just being behind us and rallying us, they’re big. We need them. Especially for the home court, for our energy. You feel it. You feel embraced. You feel loved.”