Complain and you shall receive.
After calling out the officiating following a 96-82 loss in Game 2 – a game in which San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard shot more free throws (19) than the entire Memphis team (15) – David Fizdale got the Grizzlies in the win column Thursday. Memphis beat San Antonio, 105-94, in Game 3, this after losing the first two games of the series by a combined 43 points.
So, just how important was Fizdale post-game rant against the officials Monday night?
“That is huge for players,” Fox Sports Southeast analyst Brevin Knight said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “It just further endeared himself to that locker room. What it said was, ‘Coach Fizdale just went out there and took the hit for us. It’s time for us to go out there and have his back and take a hit for him.’ And that hit for him was everyone is going to have to play at 110 percent. Sell out in every facet of the floor, guys diving on the floor, (getting) 50/50 balls – they made every opportunity tough for the Spurs. So it galvanized the locker room. It gave them an energy when there otherwise may not have been (an) energy in the locker room because of the two losses (and) the fashion that they lost (them). So I think it was a nice, calculated move by a coach that has seen all the scenarios by being a championship winner, a championship loser, and having to coach the personalities that he did while in Miami.”
Fizdale was an assistant for the Heat from 2008-16 and helped coach LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh to four consecutive NBA Finals.
The Spurs shot 31-of-32 (96.9 percent) from the free-throw line in Game 2. They were 16-of-28 (57.1 percent) in Game 3, while Memphis was 18-of-20 (90.0 percent). Mike Conley Jr. (24), Marc Gasol (21) and Zach Randolph (21) all finished 20+ points.
Knight does not believe Fizdale’s rant was random or off-the-cuff.
“I think it was definitely a reaction somewhat to what happened in that game, but it was also a bigger reaction to what has happened with this team the entire year,” Knight said. “So it was something that probably had already been stewing in his mind. The biggest thing was, ‘How do I come out and say it?’ Because he wanted to say it in a provocative way in terms of getting his point across, but he also wanted to be thorough about the way he said it – and he was.”
In the East, meanwhile, the Pacers blew a 26-point lead to the Cavs and lost Game 3, 119-114, at home to fall behind 3-0 in the series.
“It’s demoralizing,” said Knight, who played in the NBA from 1997-2009. “It kills the spirit of the team, but more so, the playoffs are about how much can your fans and your home court be an advantage? For the Cavaliers to be able to do that on the Pacers’ floor, I think, affects how excited those fans will be for Game 4. Do they really believe that their team can win one at home? That’s why it was very important for the Grizzlies to capitalize on the energy they had around the city and their fans because you want to keep that going. It makes it very stagnant in your arena if you can’t pull off that victory and keep those fans involved.”
Game 4 is Saturday in Memphis at 8 p.m. ET.