MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Grizzlies coach David Fizdale provided Memphis fans a couple of new catchphrases from his ref rant after Game 2.
The fans unleashed their support for the coach Thursday night through T-shirts and cheers, along with a thorough booing of the game’s officiating crew.
The city and its team had a new swagger despite facing a 2-0 deficit in the Western Conference first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs. The change in attitude blossomed from Fizdale’s attitude in criticizing calls in the Grizzlies’ 96-82 loss Monday night.
Suddenly, the city is rallying around its coach and the Grizzlies, and they waved the Growl Towels featuring the “Believe Memphis” motto waiting for them on every seat in FedExForum for the first home game of this best-of-seven series.
They didn’t even wait for Fizdale’s introduction. When he came onto the floor, he received a standing ovation from the towel-waving fans.
“It’s cool that our fans got behind it. I appreciate it,” Fizdale said before the game. “Obviously, that’s good for us at home.”
The Grizzlies coach called the crew of Danny Crawford, Rodney Mott and Bill Spooner “unprofessional” and “unacceptable,” then cited the number of times Spurs star Kawhi Leonard went to the free throw line – more than the entire Grizzlies team.
He closed the news conference with “take that for the data,” punctuated by slamming his hand on the table as he left the dais.
The criticism cost Fizdale a $30,000 fine from the NBA, but reinvigorated a Memphis fan base that seemed resolved to another sweep of the Grizzlies at the hands of the Spurs.
“It wasn’t for that,” Fizdale said of all the attention his rant has received. “I was just looking out for my guys, and I didn’t expect all of this.”
The backdrop of “Take That for Data” and “they not gone rook us” was set hours before the tip Thursday night. Various versions of T-shirts bearing the slogans were on sale with the new mottos being repeated throughout Memphis.
“The atmosphere is going to be outrageous,” said Carson Coker, 22, about 45 minutes before tipoff. “They are going to blow the roof off.”
And they did. The fans went even louder at Fizdale’s introduction. They booed loudly when Vince Carter was called for the Grizzlies’ first foul. Then cheered with vigor when the Spurs center Dewayne Dedmon was called for a foul for catching Marc Gasol under the chin early in the game.
The fouls were even at six apiece at the end of the first, although the Spurs did go to the line 11 times compared to four for Memphis.
And the crowd continued to yell. The game ops crew even did a Take that For Data segment with the team mascot during a second-quarter timeout.
At one point on a questionable call, the faithful opted to abandon two Fizdale comments and went to a third, implying the refs had committed a foul act.
“I know it’s been fun for a lot of people,” Fizdale said before the game. “But for us, right now, it’s a game three and we are desperate and just trying to get a win.”