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Grizzlies hold their ground vs. Spurs, turn it into a series

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Memphis-San Antonio isn’t a Spurs cakewalk anymore. They’re going to have to fight to win this one.

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs and the Grizzlies are really playing a series now. Game 1 was a San Antonio blowout, and David Fizdale’s epic rant clearly established they felt like the referees robbed them of a chance in Game 2. But when the series shifted back to Memphis in Game 3, the Grizzlies seemed determined to come out swinging.

Man, they did that.

The 105-94 win pushes the series to a 2-1 San Antonio lead with another game left to play here at the FedExForum. The Grizzlies were decisive and aggressive with their play on Thursday, matching the Spurs in the first half before pushing the game into blowout territory with a plus-14 third quarter.

It happened sort of how we expected. San Antonio has a wide range of contributors, but no one who could contain Zach Randolph on Thursday. He scored 21 points while Marc Gasol added 21 more. The slow-paced game came down to sparkling execution, and Memphis’ five turnovers and 51 percent shooting carried them while San Antonio just wasn’t as sharp. The other hero was Mike Conley, who lit up for 24 points that included moves like this.

Can the Grizzlies really expect to beat San Antonio? Well ... probably not. But hey, if it’s going to happen, it has to start here. More likely, it feels like their best-case scenario is to win the final two home games before falling in a Game 7 in San Antonio. The Spurs may not have played poorly, but they certainly fell short of their exceptional expectations as well as the level of play they consistently delivered throughout this season as they locked up the No. 2 seed.

This series hasn’t been the most watchable one, as proven by a postgame press conference rant being the most memorable thing stemming from it so far. Still, it is decidedly competitive now, and San Antonio has to treat Memphis with total seriousness headed forward. They can’t assume they’ll sneak out a Game 4 win, and Memphis won’t be giving it up easily.

If they can’t get it done on the road on Saturday, then we’ve got another week of this series left to play. We can all find at least some part of it to enjoy between now and then. (I’m looking at you, immortal Vince Carter.)