The San Antonio Spurs can advance to their first NBA Finals since 2007 if they can knock off the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals Monday night at FedExForum.
The Spurs have taken all three against Memphis, including back-to-back overtime victories in Games 2 and 3. A series sweep would put San Antonio back in the championship for the first time in six years, which was also the fourth and final title run for this franchise.
"We're just one game closer than last year," said guard Manu Ginobili after practice on Sunday. "And I truly believed every single season that I played here that we had a shot."
The Spurs have a shot at a sweep thanks to a 104-93 overtime victory on Saturday night in Memphis. San Antonio overcame an 18-point deficit in the first quarter and eight turnovers in that opening frame to hand Memphis its first home defeat of the postseason.
"The first half I was grandfatherly, and in the second half, what word can I say? I was ugly because I wasn't going to watch it again," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "So maybe I helped them get through, stick together in the first half, but in the second half they didn't need that again, they needed to get nasty and ugly and angry."
The Spurs were led, as they have been for the last 17 years, by Tim Duncan. The once-again first-team All NBA selection had 24 points and 10 rebounds on Saturday. Most importantly, seven of his 24 came in overtime.
"I'm not worried about how old I am or whatever, whatever it may be," the 37- year-old Duncan said. "I'm very focused on having another opportunity to make it to a championship and try to win."
San Antonio's leading scorer in Game 3 was the second member of the Big 3, Tony Parker, who posted 26 points. Ginobili, the final piece of the triumvirate, finished with 19.
The Grizzlies' big men stepped up on Saturday night. Zach Randolph netted 14 points and 15 rebounds and Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol finished with 16 points and 14 boards.
But it wasn't enough. Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins shared his theory on Sunday.
"I think in overtime we were just worn down. Not that they're not, it's just we're more worn down," said Hollins. "We have no room for making half efforts. We have to make all-out effort all game. That's how we're in the game. We're not one of the most talented teams in the league or in the playoffs. We just go out and we scratch and claw."
For the most part, the Grizz did that. They just didn't do it enough.
And despite never being in this position before (this is the first time the organization advanced to the Western Conference Finals), they've been down in both previous series this postseason.
It was just never quite this grim.
"We ain't been down like this, 0-3, so it's a different mindset," said Randolph. "It's now do or die. We've got to come out tomorrow and come out like we came out last game and just sustain it and not break down towards the end of the game."
If Game 5 is necessary, it will be Wednesday night in San Antonio.