Memphis, TN – The "Believe Memphis" towels from the raucous home crowd waved vigorously at the start as the Memphis Grizzlies stormed out of the gate.
Undeterred, the stoic 37-year-old Tim Duncan and his San Antonio Spurs never wavered.
Duncan netted seven of his 24 points in overtime and the Spurs downed the Grizzlies, 104-93, in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.
"That's why he is considered as great as he has been for the last 17 years," San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich said of Duncan, "He feels a responsibility to carry us in those kinds of times, and he did it again tonight."
After consecutive overtime triumphs, San Antonio took a commanding 3-0 series edge and can advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007 and fifth in the last 14 years with another win in Memphis on Monday.
"I'm not worried about how old I am or whatever, whatever it may be," Duncan said. "I'm very focused on having another opportunity to make it to a championship and try to win."
The Grizzlies had been undefeated at FedEx Forum this postseason and had prevailed in 19 of their last 20 home tilts dating back to the regular season.
San Antonio overcame an 18-point, first-quarter deficit and committed eight of its 17 turnovers in the opening 12 minutes. The veteran-laden Spurs hung around and didn't hold their first lead until the early stages of a tightly- contested fourth quarter, which saw 11 lead changes and 10 ties.
San Antonio seized control in overtime.
After Duncan and Zach Randolph exchanged buckets to begin the extra session, Duncan converted a three-point play and Tiago Splitter flipped in a hook shot on back-to-back San Antonio possessions to give the Spurs their largest lead of the game at that point, 93-88, with 3:29 left.
Mike Conley split a pair of foul shots at the other end, but Memphis never got any closer as Tony Parker hit a pull-up jumper and Splitter put home a layup to vault the advantage to 97-89.
Parker registered seven turnovers, but did supply 26 points and five assists, while Manu Ginobili chipped in 19 points and seven boards. Duncan pulled down 10 rebounds in the triumph.
Marc Gasol recorded 16 points and 14 rebounds, Conley poured in 20 points and Zach Randolph finished with 14 points and 15 boards for Memphis, which hosted its first conference final.
No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit.
"We have had chances to win each of these games," Conley said. "This was a tough one to swallow, but it was a good learning lesson. There's no group of guys I'd rather be with down 3-0 to try to fight back in it."
Quincy Pondexter had 15 points off the pine in defeat.
Neither squad led by more than two during the final eight minutes of regulation.
Ginobili, who had seven points in the fourth, drove in for a layup to get San Antonio within one and then gave his team the lead, 86-85, after converting two clutch free throws with 54.5 ticks to play in the stanza.
Tony Allen answered by splitting a pair at the other end. Ginobili then missed a 3-pointer with 20.9 seconds left before Conley's runner at the horn was off the mark.
Earlier, Memphis, which had not led in San Antonio for more that two minutes, opened up a huge lead using its grit and grind mentality. Popovich pulled out his starters with his team trailing 16-5 at the 4:54 mark. Conley racked up five steals as the Grizzlies jumped out to a 29-11 first-quarter lead before heading into the second with a 29-13 spread.
The Spurs, though, began the second with an 11-2 run to pull within 31-24 before whittling to deficit to 44-40 heading into the break.
San Antonio cut the margin to a point on six different occasions in the third, with Duncan's bucket concluding a 12-4 Spurs swing and getting them within 65-64 after three.
A Danny Green right corner 3-pointer gave San Antonio its first lead at the 11:45 mark of the fourth.
The Spurs outscored Memphis 58-42 in the paint, but the Grizzlies had 25 points off San Antonio's giveaways ... Splitter had six of his 11 points in overtime.