Game 1: Memphis Grizzlies 101, San Antonio Spurs 98

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AT&T CENTER–San Antonio won many of the little battles but ultimately lost the war in the Spurs 101-98 Game 1 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies–their sixth straight series opener loss.

Behind Tim Duncan’s 13 rebounds, the Spurs outrebounded the Grizzlies 40-38, holding Memphis to just five offensive rebounds and outscoring them 15-5 on both second chance and fast break points.

“It should (have been enough), but it wasn’t,” Tim Duncan said. “We just didn’t do enough down the stretch and that was the game right there. We stuck to our game plan, did a good job of keeping them off the offensive glass, but they made more plays down the stretch.”

The guy normally responsible for making those plays of course was in street clothes today, but Manu Ginobili’s absence does not take away from what was a very solid game plan from the Memphis Grizzlies. If you can’t catch them, beat them. The Grizzlies set the tone early, dragging the San Antonio Spurs into the ugly game that was once the Spurs’ calling card.

[pullquote]Several of these Spurs have danced this dance before, and for a moment it was shades of Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz again, playing the notes through the tweets of the referees’ whistles. Legs, arms, knees and elbows at every twist and turn.[/pullquote]

For the game, the Spurs shot 47 free throws, and they’ll take every single one of them every night, but the very act of fouling slowed the Spurs offense to a grind, removing the layups, 3-pointers, and ball movement that carried them to the top seed in the West.

Memphis, not known for their outside competency, managed to match the Spurs stride-for-stride in their greatest weapon with six 3-pointers–none bigger than the Battier 3-pointer in the last minute. And it’s not that the Spurs missed terribly from the outside (40 percent), they simply had trouble finding them.

Matt Bonner, in a slight bit of playoff redemption, nailed half of the four 3-pointers he attempted, but if you remove a 3-pointer heaved to beat a clock–there were only three clean shots he got away.

Whenever the Spurs managed dribble penetration, or movement within a set, Memphis simply fouled. Better to yield a set of free throws or reset the offense than an open 3-pointer.

The Spurs have been a marvel of engineering and execution all season, today the Grizzlies were the wrecking ball. Against a team that creates as many turnovers as anyone in the league, 10 turnovers is an acceptable number. But when weighed against just 13 assists, for a Spurs team that moves the ball as well as any in the NBA, the sort of fight the Grizzlies had in mind takes shape.

In each of the Spurs biggest runs, through the first and third quarters, the Spurs had five assists in both stints. In the second and fourth quarters, the Spurs had three combined, with no assists in the second. For the game the Grizzlies had 22 assists to the Spurs 13.

“We were best when were attacking quickly and not letting them set up their defense,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said. “There were periods in the game where we didn’t do that, we slowed up a bit too much.

“W’d like to keep the pace up a little better.”

Picking up the pace to neutralize the combo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol as much as possible, that is. The two combined for 49 points on 19-25 from the field, and generally wreaked havoc on the Spurs interior defense.

For Randolph, 25 and 14 is a walk in the park and even given his 10-15 shooting he was reasonably contained for stretches of the game for a player of his ilk. That is to say that he had no offensive rebounds.

What the Spurs cannot live with is the play of Marc Gasol, who appeared every bit determined to make Popovich eat his dumb trade remarks famously made years ago.

“Marc is great, he’s one of the best young centers out there,” Randolph said. “He works hard, he plays the right way, and I love playing with him. He’s going to be an All-Star.”

Future All-Star credentials aside, chances are the younger Gasol is not going to hit 9-of-10 shots in Game 2. Marc channeled the ghost of Dirk Nowitzki’s Game 1 performance from last year, hitting from all over the floor in a breakdown Duncan took personal responsibility for after the game.

“We know they’re going to be some big bodies, we know that’s what their game is based on,” Duncan said. “Them making shots, we’re going to have to pay a little more attention to them obviously. Especially myself with Marc. I think I gave him an easy there trying to keep half an eye on Zach instead of focusing on Marc.”

If this was an outlier performance from Gasol, the Spurs should expect to get Manu Ginobili back and be in great shape heading through the rest of the series. But if this is simply the beginning of a breakout performance?

The Spurs could be in a world more of hurt than their 47 free throws attempted suggests.

  • andy

    honestly, for once i might agree with not playing splitter. where splitter seems to excel (you can’t say splitter hasn’t shown enough defensively, offensively he’s had more hiccups) is against mobile, agile bigs. gasol the lesser and z-bo are not of that mould.

    however, i would like to see him get just a little burn to see if he can slow down z-bo. no one else on our team seems to be having any luck.

  • spurzztop

    splitter shouldve played some…
    dice had an off game
    blair needs to put the ball in the hoop with authority
    bonner imo played ok defense ok offense
    parker was off till the end
    ginobli didnt play
    pop was pop ???
    timmy was the man in first half
    hill needs to finish drives
    neal needs to be himself

  • NC

    As a Grizz fan, The Spurs SHOULD be worried. The Grizz split the series AND took one of their losses to OT….

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  • Nikolas

    sorry, i didnt realize people enjoy badmouthing their players. i guess some people vent by taking it out online on their own team. personally i cant find my self doing that even when i am alone. Either way, splitter isnt the simple solution either theres obviously a reason that pop is so hesitant to play him. He’s the coach hes been to all the practices and knows whats best for the team. Its funny how you go back to Pop in your defense talking about your military experience when in your first post you think of him as a “fucking idiot.” Pop knows what hes doing, thats why our team has turned into a dynasty over these past years. A “fucking idiot” couldn’t bring the success that Pop has helped bring to this organization.

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