SAN ANTONIO — Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale offered up scathing criticism of the officials Monday, on the heels of his team’s 96-82 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series.
“It’s unfortunate that I’ve got a guy like [point guard] Mike Conley that in his whole career has got zero technical fouls and just cannot seem to get the proper respect from the officials that he deserves,” Fizdale said after Memphis fell to a 2-0 deficit. “It was a very poorly officiated basketball game.”
The Grizzlies overcame a 19-point halftime deficit, which had swelled to as large as 26, to pull to within four points at the 10:08 mark of the third quarter.
Despite the furious comeback, Memphis fell short. Kawhi Leonard finished the game hitting 19-of-19 from the free throw line to become the first player since Dirk Nowitzki in 2011 to hit 19 or more in a row from the charity stripe without a miss in the playoffs.
In fact, Leonard attempted more free throws than the entire Memphis squad (13-of-15). San Antonio as a team connected on 31 of 32 from the free throw line.
“Zach Randolph, the most rugged guy in the game, had zero free throws,” Fizdale said as he stared down at the box score from Monday’s game. “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 they had 23 free throws. I’m 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.”
Given San Antonio’s championship pedigree, legendary coach Gregg Popovich and Memphis’ relative lack of postseason success, Fizdale doesn’t believe the officials gave his team proper respect on calls. Officials whistled Memphis for a total of 22 fouls, compared to 13 for the Spurs.
“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,” Fizdale said. “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’re 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.”
As Fizdale finished his thought, the first-year head coach slammed a pen to the table and stood up.
“Take that for data,” he said.
Conley finished the game with a team-high 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting and 4-of-5 from the free throw line.
“I don’t [know] what the numbers were exactly, but Kawhi shot a lot of free throws,” Conley said. “He does that a lot. I don’t know how many we shot. But the name of the game tonight is we’ve got to keep them off the line.”
When asked whether he receives proper respect from the officials, Conley responded, “As far as getting to the free throw line? No, but they respect me as a person, I feel like. But when it comes to the game, I’m not sure.”
Conley agreed with Fizdale that San Antonio’s history of postseason success gives it a leg up with the officials when compared to the Grizzlies.
The Spurs are 27-2 in playoff series when they take a 2-0 lead.
“Yeah. You see two different teams here,” Conley said. “The Spurs are champions. They’ve won many times. They’ve done a lot of great things. We haven’t earned that yet. We have to get to that mountaintop. And we understand that. I understand that. That’s why I’m not going to complain about it. I’m just going to keep my head down, keep focused, try to play through it the best I can and keep my teammates from letting it affect them mentally.”