The Memphis Grizzlies entered the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs as significant underdogs to advance, which is the nature of the beast as a No. 7 seed matched up against the No. 2 seed San Antonio Spurs. In Game 1, Memphis absolutely floundered on the way to a 111-82 defeat and it seemed as if the Grizzlies would go quietly into the night.
Fast-forward to Game 2 and, at one point, the Spurs led by as many as 25 points in what appeared to be another blowout. However, the Grizzlies awakened to the tune of a monster run in the second half, closing the gap to only five at one point, and that type of inspired effort seemed to produce real emotion for Memphis head coach David Fizdale. In the aftermath of what became a 96-82 loss, the first-year head coach absolutely unleashed on the officiating to the point where he stormed out on his own press conference.
Fizdale’s full rant reads this way (h/t CBS Sports):
‘It’s unfortunate that I’ve got a guy like Mike Conley, who in his whole career’s got zero technical fouls. And just cannot seem to get the proper respect from the officials that he deserves. It was a very poorly officiated basketball game. Zach Randolph, the most rugged guy in the game, had zero free throws, but somehow Kawhi Leonard had 19 free throws. First half we shot 19 shots in the paint and we had six free throws. They shot 11 times in the paint and had 23 free throws. Not a numbers guy, but that doesn’t seem to add up. Overall, 35 times we shot the ball in the paint, we had 15 free throws for the game. They shot 18 times in the paint and had 32 free throws, Kawhi shot more free throws than our whole team. Explain it to me. We don’t get the respect that these guys deserve, because Mike Conley doesn’t go crazy, he has class, and he just plays the game, but I’m not gonna let them treat us that way. I know Pop’s got pedigree, and I’m a young rookie, but they not gonna rook us! That’s unacceptable, that was unprofessional. Our guys dug in that game and earned the right to be in that game, and they did not even give us a chance. Take that for data!”
While free throw disparities are often overrated, it is hard to find real fault in a head coach being upset about a favorite taking 32 free throws (and making 31 of them) while his own team shoots just 15 over the course of 48 minutes. Beyond that, Fizdale’s anger is backed up a bit by the numbers across both contests.
It seems to be a virtual certainty that Fizdale will receive a sizable fine for this performance but he absolutely had to know that when it transpired. It remains to be seen as to how “effective” this will be in influencing either the officials or his own team in a positive direction for Game 3 and beyond, but David Fizdale is officially a veteran playoff head coach after a showing like this one.