Memphis Grizzlies 111, San Antonio Spurs 104: Tony Allen, Zach Randolph form unstoppable two man wrecking crew


If you missed the game, here are the need-to-knows:

  • George Hill put on a brilliant offensive performance, scoring 30 points with an array of difficult shots.  He shot 9-12 from the field and 11-12 from the line and finished as one of the few Spurs with a positive plus-minus.
  • In the second quarter, Gregg Popovich was tossed for arguing a non-call on a Marc Gasol steal from Manu Ginobili.
  • Manu Ginobili injured his left quad on the same play; he tried playing in the second half, but ultimately couldn’t go.
  • Tony Allen played remarkably effective defense against the Spurs; Zach Randolph matched Allen’s defensive show with an offensive clinic. Both players finished with 23 points—Allen complimented his scoring with 5 steals; Randolph collected 11 boards.
  • San Antonio had a 5 point lead with a little over 5 minutes remaining, but went on to turn the ball over on a shot clock violation, Tony Parker stepping out of bounds, and a careless inbound pass from Matt Bonner.

The bigger story here is that this game marked the third consecutive loss for the Spurs, their first such streak of the season. They’re now 0-3 without Duncan, and will likely play the Blazers tomorrow night with neither Duncan nor Ginobili. That’s a hard row to go on a back-to-back.

One week ago I wasn’t in the least bit concerned about the possibility of the Spurs losing home court advantage at any point during the playoffs, but now I’m sweating it, if only a little.  And beyond that, the Spurs are not putting together a good late season push to ride into the postseason. Other teams—Lakers and Heat, for example—are building momentum for the postseason.

Injuries, poor play, and a rise in play of San Antonio’s potential playoff foes…it’s not the greatest combination of  story lines for late March.

But we can at least take two silver linings from these three losses. The Spurs feckless play without Tim Duncan has served as a good reminder of how valuable he is to the team. His system knowledge, court leadership and post presence still mean more than we realize. And, interestingly, Tiago Splitter has played well in Duncan’s place. Going back 5 games, Splitter is averaging 8 points and nearly 8 rebounds in just over 22 minutes of playing time, with regular stints of sound, effective defense.

It’s a little maddening that the Spurs’ coaching staff hasn’t found more playing time for Splitter, but there is no question now that he is an occasional double-double player in the NBA. Once he receives an uptick in minutes and a regular spot in the rotation, there is no reason to think he’s not a 10 point, 8 rebound player, and a meaningful defender to boot. And, you know, I think he could top those projections, depending on what he adds to his body and game this offseason.

But that’s next season. Right now, the Spurs need to grab a few buckets and clear water from the hull of their ship.



  • Bruno

    “It’s a little maddening that the Spurs’ coaching staff hasn’t found more playing time for Splitter”

    They prefer lose the game but don’t put Splitter in 4th, because like Pop say “is not fair to the team”

  • junierizzle

    MAN, I don’t really care that they lost this game. No TD, No Manu, whatever. The thing that is a concern now is the lead in the west that is now very attainable to the Lakers and Mavs.

    They still have a healthy lead but a win wouldn’t hurt. I’d like to think they can win the next two since they’re at home. In these last three games they at least showed that they CAN win if they execute. Now maybe they can utilize some home cooking like the Blazers, Nuggs and Grizz did.

    That’s all I can say for now. I’m saving my discontent for the playoffs.

    Props to Ghill. I knew he would have a good game.
    Props to TIAGO. Maybe you’ll get more minutes at home.
    Props to the SPURS tenacity. They just couldn’t close. But without the Big fundamental, is it that shocking???

  • Jacques

    Might as well let Parker rest the back-to-back game vs. Portland to prevent all TP, Manu, and Timmy from being injured.

    just kidding. But seriously, this game just like the last two was very close to the last two minutes. Rather than just acknowledging the loss, I think we should look at the bright side of how this team has great depth for guys to step up their games. (Splitter, Hill, & hopefully more scoring from RJ soon)

  • DBAGuy

    This is a horrible way to enter the playoffs, especially if we meet Memphis in 1st round. We will all banged up by the second round. This is a team game, and I can’t believe we have all fallen apart without Timmy. I cant believe we will prob end up losing HCA to the Bulls and or Lakers. Our defense is still not good to stop teams from scoring. Memphis came back on us with a vengeance and we just turned the ball over. We have struggled all year against good defensive efforts. Things are not looking good for HCA, the way LA and Bulls are playing, I wouldn’t be surprised if those are the matchups in the finals.

    Well, when you’re up so high, falling down really hurts!

  • rob

    HCA is definately a concern to ponder but still “managable” with some luck and easier oponents.

    What’s more troubling is how the team is finding ways to lose instead of win in these hard fought games.

    I thought that if the Spurs loss a game or two during this stretch it wouldn’t be a problem. Don’t worry about it. They seemed to have it together in how to win.

    These last 3 games has shown a team from it’s players to coaching staff making really bad decisions.

    Really disappointing to see the team go from confident contender to looking like a playoff pretender in such short time.

    And not like they read any posts from us fans on these sites…but…Go Spurs Go!!!

    This is when champions find a way. Find yours. And coaching staff…I’ve always pegged you better than these last few games to putting in the right rotations. Time to step up your game as well.

  • rj

    i welcome the adversity, but we are in some serious trouble. it has been roses for us nearly all season

    you cannot allow bonner to guard marc gasol down the stretch. don’t care how well he shoots the three or how many fouls tiago had. maybe splitter starts seeing minutes towards the end of the game. especially tomorrow because he is our only big quick enough to stay infront of him.

  • andy

    sky is falling sky is falling doom doom calamity

    road games against good, playoff caliber teams. first 3 game losing streak. i’m ok.

    March 27th, 2011 at 6:56 pm
    “That’s all I can say for now. I’m saving my discontent for the playoffs.”

    i’m with you.

  • Nima K.

    Manu’s out? Ok. Send in JA to get some serious minutes and catch up with the season. What’s left of it of course.

    So let’s say we lose número uno seed. Well at least we won’t be facing MEM and possibly OKC in the playoffs. We have a habit of picking up injuries from these two teams. Better if LA sustains heavy injuries from these physical teams when reaching WCF. I’d much rather we faced Dallas (an old team like ourselves), and Denver or NOL, than face MEM and OKC.

    As for HCA, at this point, my concern is how to survive elimination in the playoffs, not clinching HCA. If we have a 3 losing streak just because TD isn’t playing, then we’re not any better than Dallas.

    I wish it weren’t so, but not reaching WCF is now seeming like a growing possibility.

  • Hobson13

    March 27th, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    “sky is falling sky is falling doom doom calamity
    road games against good, playoff caliber teams. first 3 game losing streak. i’m ok.”

    Duncan’s out now Manu is hurt. The team can’t close out games or play defense. Pop and co. refuse to give Splitter any extended minutes, preferring instead to go with Bonner (who, by the way, is gearing up for another playoff flop). The Spurs HCA lead is dwindling fast, etc. Does Tony have to break his leg for some of you Pollyannas to get concerned?

  • rob

    “sky is falling sky is falling doom doom calamity”

    I’m normally with this sentiment.

    However…the last three games saw a Spurs team without Duncan perform admirably only to fall apart in the last minutes of these games.

    Duncan’s nonpresense had nothing to do with these losses. Poor play by other major contributors as well as very poor coaching decisions makes one wonder regarding the ability to overcome/make better decisions regarding even harder situations in a playoff scenario.

    IF there is nothing to worry about…the team and coaches sure are doing a great job conceiling their top performances for later.

  • Mark B

    Duncan’s nonpresense had nothing to do with these losses.

    Gotta disagree with you. If you can pass the ball to Timmy, it covers up a lot of bad play and/or bad coaching decisions. Also if the other team has the ball, having him in the center of the defense means that even if Bonner gets beat, there is still resistance at the rim. I think if Duncan had been available just for the last 5 minutes of the last 3 games, Spurs win at least 2/3. But it’s the regular season. By mid May nobody is going to care how you finished the regular season.

  • Ro

    I still don’t get why Splitter doesn’t get crunch time mins in the 4th quarter when Bonner does.

    I’ve given up on this stubborn coaching staff to let him play.

    This is no knock on Bonner, who tries hard but is a limited player. I’ve just given up on expecting them to even give Splitter a chance in crunch time when they are obviously obsessed with Bonner.

    I’m no bball expert and they are great coaches but sometimes, you have to just let go of their stubbornness and trust young players.

    Pop has a little of his mentor Larry Brown’s ways when it comes to young guys. Remember not playing Hill in 2009 playoffs and now this w/ Splitter. Just mind boggling.

  • lkr_lrkr

    Laker fan here, but I promise to keep it respectful (unlike some of the pro-Laker posts I’ve read here, but all I can say is that there are a large number of 13-year-olds in the Greater LA Area.)

    I’ve been astounded all season long that the Spurs were able to compile the record that they had considering that they rely on the 3-point shot as much as they to. Its Nellie-ball plus Tim Duncan.

    Without TD, the Spurs have to shoot 55% from the field in order to win. Nobody does that consistantly.

    If I had to bet it, I would still bet on the Spurs finishing with the best record. The gap is still too big, and after the next 5, the schedule get easier.

    But, count me among the group that believes that the style the Spurs play these days doesn’t work in the playoffs.

  • Rafael

    @Mark B

    I agree but is not Spurs who can’t survive without Duncan, is Pop. In last minutes, TD should be there, when need inbound the ball, TD should be there, when defense is failing, TD should be there.
    Pop could not fix it, because he uses Bonner.
    If Pop had managed better, Spurs could have won

  • spectator

    btw guys, if you look at the schedule of both nola and mem, it looks like mem would finish on top, if they wanted to be better than nola – aka play to win every game until the end.

    their only reason for this to happen is to play the mavs instead of the spurs in the first round as a 6th seed – mem plays por in second to last game of the season.

    otherwise, they will comfortably secure their play-off spot and would probably try to avoid the lakers, not the spurs in the first round. for this reason, it is great that the 2nd to last game is vs. portland – it keeps them in the hunt for the 6th seed.

  • Nima K.

    At this point, I say:

    1. Rest the starters for the rest of the season.

    2. Let go of HCA as our top priority. Let’s just survive.

    3. Turn the remainder of the season into training/conditioning sessions for Splitter, JA, Novak, Green, et al.

    Hill, Bonner, and RJ could use this opportunity to sharpen their dulled skills. Pop can maybe try different rotations. I don’t know, just do something useful with the RS games left, instead of trying to force the same crooked nail to go in straight over and over again.

  • TD = Best EVER

    I’m going to go yet in another direction then most…… it’s not the Defense(totally) or just bad coaching/rotations(totally)…….. We have spoken about them forever it seems…… but there’s another element to our late game collapses. It’s our Offensive system……

    I watched the entire game only missing a few plays here and there. And from what I can recall the SPURS only deviated from their base Offense like 4 times……..

    1 – After a timeout a failed play to RJ – Kicked Ball on Memphis
    2 – Out of Bounds play – ended in RJ missing a 3 ft hook shot
    3 – The Gary Neal 3 from a side out play
    4 – The Hill drive after a series of curl screens one left and then one right – Hill got fouled.

    That’s it……. Other than those 4 plays I think we ran Pick and Roll all game long with a few players doing their own thing from time to time, but not called from the sideline………….Same goes for the last 1 losses, how may plays did we actually run from the sideline…….I ask this because when we are in the final few minutes and are having issue getting good looks lately…… And I thinks its because the other team has seen the PnR so much during the 1st 42 min that during the final 6 they finally have an answer for it……… That’s why our late game PnR’s are not as efficient as scoring as our earlier ones. And also why Manu has struggles lately. If I can notice SA doing the same old tired plays at the end of games, then I’m sure the rest of the league can also……

    Look at what Memphis did tonight as an example…… Down the stretch, they went almost exclusively with Post Isolation plays. But during the 1st 43 min of the game…… they ran a few counters in there so SA couldn’t get into a rhythm defensively against their bread and butter……

    They ran 2-3 Post up plays for Battier when ever he had Manu or someone smaller on him
    They ran a post up for Tony Allen when he had Hill on him
    They ran OJ Mayo off of screens giving him several catch and shoot situations…..
    They ran the Post high.low play
    They also ran a down screen for Arthur ti shoot a few jump shots….
    And yes they ran PnR with Mike Conely

    SO they run several different plays making it much harder to for us lock them down late………

    What do you think???

  • Beiste

    Upcoming 2-3 games:

    G – TP (limit minutes) sub CQuinn
    G – GH sub JA (more minutes)
    F – RJ (fair minutes) sub GNeal (fair minutes)
    F – MB (fair minutes) sub SNovak (Fair minutes)
    C – TS (more minutes) sub DB

    Why not?

  • Beiste

    Upcoming 2-3 games:

    G – TP (limit mins) (G)sub CQuinn

    G – GH (G)sub JA (more mins)

    F – RJ (fair mins) (F)sub GNeal (fair mins)

    F – MB (fair mins) (F)sub SNovak (Fair mins)

    C – TS (more mins) (C)sub DB

    Why not?

  • badger

    Given Tim’s injury, I think losing these three close games on the road against playoff caliber teams (but not championship caliber) is really no big deal. Really.

    We lost Tim for a little while, and that is a big loss, but it is temporary. Manu has a bruised thigh and hopefully that’s even more temporary. That’s it, that’s the extent of our problems right now. No need to cry like it’s the end of the road. If you erase these two temporary problems, we win 2 out of the 3 games, and everyone would be all amped up for the chance to get another ring, and HCA would be in the bag.

    All that said, if Matt Bonner can’t get RED hot from 3 land, and cannot play better defense, I’d rather just sit him on the bench and rest him. Maybe then his shot would come back when we need him for that.

    Splitter is getting better every day, Hill was SUPER efficient, and I really think Parker is playing well, although he was looking to score to the point of forcing it at times, rather than simply to draw in the D and distribute. Blair made some nice plays too. The one guy (besides Bonner) that doesn’t seem to be helping our cause right now is RJ. He carried Milwaukee offensively, yet he can barely reach double figures with Tim out the whole game, and Manu out the 2nd half. He has to play better, period.

  • Beiste

    TP, GH, RJ, MB, TS

    2nd unit:
    GH, JA, GN, DB, AM

    If bonner can’t hit, let Novak play.
    IMO, this rotation can help them. What do you think guys?

  • Bob

    Good to see Hill have a good game. I think sometimes it’s just a matter of confidence with him. I don’t think the Spurs get past the Mavs last year without him playing confidently.

    Sometimes all that separates good players is confidence. You have a guy like Robert Horry that was clutch in the playoffs cause he was confident. Then you have playoff Bonner that’s scared too shoot unless he’s wide open and even then still lacks confidence. Alot of times Horry got the shot of right before the defender reached him. If he had hesitated he would either have got blocked or missed the shot. I just don’t see Bonner having that confidence that he just needs to get his shot off and it’s good.

    I think Spurs have to go 6-3 if Bulls or Lakers run the table. Lakers could potentially run the table so that’s probably a good target. If this was any other stretch during the season I would take that but the way they’re dropping games like hot potatoes I am not sure. I’d give Bulls and Lakers 1-2 losses in remaining games. The Spurs should plan on using remaining 3 losses. The 3 losses are probably Lakers, Celtics, and Blazers. But they have to be careful of Phoenix(twice), Houston, and Atlanta.

  • MSteele

    Take a look at it this way we lost to seeds 5, 6 & 8 on the road by a combined 12 points without our important player (Timmy is still the most important) and then Manu obviously went down last night.
    Yea it’s disappointing that we found ways to lose the game but I’ll look for a silver lining to this dull cloud:
    1. Tiago is showing what we all knew to be true, good post D, good PnR player and a solid rebounder.
    2. That loss last night might be a blessing in disguise. It puts Mem just 1 game behind Noh in the standings, so if we can just hold on to the 1 seed, we’ll play a West-less Hornets and the Lakers can deal with the Grizz.
    3. I feel as long as we’re healthy we can beat any team in this league in a 7-game series.
    4. I wouldn’t be too worried about losing HCA to the Bulls because personally I believe that Boston comes out of the East anyways. So we got a 4 game lead on LA who’s schedule is not as easy as everyone is saying (Dal, @Uta, Den, Uta, @GS, @Por, OKC, SAS, @Sac). Yea they could run through that schedule but it’ll be tough on them.

  • jacobd

    Another game we have the lead in the 4th and just couldn’t finish it out. What concerns me is that we’re losing focus down the stretch with so many turnovers. Regardless of who’s injured or who’s on/off the bench, we should have these kinks ironed out already. take care of the ball!!

    We have maybe 5 opponents left on the schedule that we “should” beat with 9 games left… boston and LA have position to play for.. hopefully we get our health AND our focus back in the next couple weeks… Keep faith that we will get everyone back healthy and win games we’re supposed to win .. If there’s a positive at least the last 3 weren’t blowouts – games we should/could’ve won.

  • Tim in Surrey

    @Hobson13 – Yeah, probably. I’m certainly not concerned by three close losses on the road to three good teams.

    Listen, folks. Mathematically it’s still going to be VERY difficult to lose HCA. You can see my post in Scott’s column about tonight’s game for details. But, essentially, if we go 5-4 only Chicago and LA can catch us and then it will be very tough for them. Four games seems like very few, given how well they are playing. But we only have nine left to play and only one game with either of them (LA), so they just won’t have many opportunities to close with us unless we completely tank.

    @TD = Best EVER – I think we pretty much agree on this. Perhaps I’m still being Pollyanna-ish, but it strikes me that there’s a good reason for this. Everyone seems to think that Pop has suddenly lost his coaching acumen lately. But I think he just doesn’t care about HCA or wins & losses any more and is using these last few games as scrimmages against live opponents. Think about it: Why WOULD he break out his best late-game material now, if that’s the case? To give his opponents a better opportunity to scout it?

    Anyway, it’s just a thought.

  • Alix Babaie

    While I am definitely upset with the way the Spurs have lacked execution at the end of games, I am still optimistic that can get out of this rut and get back on track.

    Starting with the game tonight against Portland, the Spurs can start working to get that magic number for clinching HCA.

    Nima K.
    March 27th, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    At this point, I say:

    1. Rest the starters for the rest of the season.

    2. Let go of HCA as our top priority. Let’s just survive.

    3. Turn the remainder of the season into training/conditioning sessions for Splitter, JA, Novak, Green, et al.

    THANK GOD you are not in charge of running the Spurs, probably the dumbest thing you have ever posted on here.

    If you looked at the opponents that the Spurs could face in round one, it would either be the Hornets or the Grizzlies, which nobody in their right fucking mind wants any part of whatsoever!

    The schedules for these 2 STRONGLY favor Memphis moving to the #7 seed, meaning they would draw the Lakers, which we as Spurs fans, should definitely root for this postseason.

    LA is not going to finish the regular season unbeaten, neither is Chicago, nor Dallas.

    The good guys in S&B need to find the testicular fortitude tonight against Portland, with or without Manu, then find the gumption to bear Boston, which would close the gap for clinching to 3 games.

    I am telling you people, the Spurs are like Daniel-san, when Johnny sweeps the leg and he looks ragged but gets into the crane position to snap that foot across that smug bastard’s face! :)

    In the name of Jesus – Lloyd Christmas – have some faith!!!!

  • este

    We are this years Phoenix Suns. A team that relies too heavily on shooting threes and can’t get stops.

  • Colin


    Good post. I agree with you about the predictability of our late game offensive sets.

    I would like to see some more diversity in the ball handling. However, the Tim Duncan/Parker PnR is something very, very hard to contest. That can be countered with Ginobili/Blair or Ginobili/Splitter or even McDyess in different game situations.

    I would also like to see how Neal can handle more PnR situations. He has a good handle and you know teams are going to go over the screen every time because of his “gunner” identity in the league.

    Other than that, negate 4-5 very key turnovers we go 3-0 or 2-1 in these past 3 games regardless of the play calling. Its a bit discouraging.

  • 48 minutes of bacon

    First time poster. Long time reader here.

    One thing we can take away from these losses is the fact that it’s giving our role players thither chance to define and put their mark on big meaningful games. This will payoff come playoff time. So far Jill,Neal, and Splitter have stepped up beautifully.

    Another thing that I find encouraging is that in the midst of these last 3 losses we have had some periods of really solid defense which seem to be getting longer.

    The last 3 games have been lost by bonehead play from the starters, which in its way is comforting because you know they will correct it. Tony has had some very uncharacteristic late game meltdowns of late. Turnovers are easy to correct and not really a big part of this team’s DNA.

    There are changes that need to be made. Jefferson is playing very poorly, especially on ldefense. He constantly gets caught on screens or is slow in rotating. He has also turned into a spot up shooter which isn’t his game. He needs to drive and draw fouls. Maybe giving Anderson more minutes might motivate him. Anderson is a better perimeter defender at least.

    Bonner needs to sit. His ability to stretch the floor pales in comparison to what a defensive liabilry he is. Especially of late. He cannot guard anybody. Splitter has been solid and has earned the minutes.

    We need a more balanced attack. People are settling for way too many Js, we need to follow George Hills lead from last night and be more aggressive at getting to the rim and passing it out of the pick and roll. Another thing that boggled my mind was the fact that the guy with the hot hand (George) was completely ignored the last three minutes of the game. It seems we do this often.

    No need to panic just yet. Still a lot of basketball left. Game on tonight. Go Spurs Go.

  • TheRealKman

    Thanks for finally writing an article that pinpoint the truth…………..Our Spurs are regressing at the wrong time. Seperate from the injuries, this team’s level of effort and focus especially in closing minutes of the game is subpar right now. If they don’t right the ship very soon, Memphis will join Golden State in the Top Texas Toppling club.

  • Colin

    BTW: I’d rather face the Hornets without West than the Grizzlies without Gay.

    No one is fearing the Hornets.

  • Patrick O’Connor

    I am a Laker fan since the days folks like Jerry West did personal appearances at the local Sears To do mini basketball camps for kids in order to drum up attendance for the team. (I must have 10 years old. Pretty cool) Anyway, despite all the Celtic history the Spurs are always the team I am looking out for. And they are not losing HCA. Just not gonna happen. So relax.

  • Doris

    Tiago was playing well and why did they bench him in the 4th? Blair used to be the beast, but since he lost his spot as a starter, he plays bad missing those easy shots he used to make. He played better with that steal and few rebounds. George was on fire but Tony did not pass the ball to him but to Antonio that missed both needed shots. The TO king did it again. TONY being a ballhog again. GH3 was hot and he makes things happen. MANU is tired and really needed rests, but not this way. TONY needs to rest,too, before they hurt him, too. Matt was sorta scared to shoot the ball now. THEY need to keep their composure. DEFENSE is the KEY. THEY need to learn how to overcome double/triple teamed. AGAIN, they could have won this game. COSTLY BIG Mistakes. THEY can WIN without Timmy. NOW, they proved me wrong. THEY need to have CONFIDENCE on themselves. COME ON,, you have to keep that homecourt advantage. Just 4 games ahead of the BULLS now. WAKE up people…

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  • Mark B

    CAPS lock KEY seems TO be sticking INTERMITTENTLY.

  • Mark B

    Sorry, I was being a jerk. The capitalization was annoying me, but except for that, good post, Doris.

    I’m reminded of the advice of Douglas Adams: “DON’T PANIC!” [Caps from original]

    It’s only the regular season. The Spurs will be fine.

  • td4life

    “The team can’t close out games or play defense. Pop and co. refuse to give Splitter any extended minutes, preferring instead to go with Bonner (who, by the way, is gearing up for another playoff flop). The Spurs HCA lead is dwindling fast, etc. Does Tony have to break his leg for some of you Pollyannas to get concerned?”

    I’m with you. Unfortunately, this team never had much chance of getting out of the West. At this point, I would say that their prospects are exactly 0.0% of doing so with or without HCA, which is exactly what I predicted on this site in the offseason, where I also said we were the probably #2 seed, and would be no worse than #3. So far, I enjoyed the early wins, but have never bought into the fanciful notion that the Spurs were the best team in the league.

    @Tim in Surrey
    I generally love reading your posts. It’s hard to imagine you believe the Spurs have a real chance to win it all this year, thus I have to wonder if you simply think that falling so close and yet so far away from that final result will still equate to a successful season, rather than a huge disappointment. Sorry to be a bummer about all of this, but for me the writing is too clearly on the wall.

    In the meantime, it will be fun to see Hill and Anderson play extended minutes together with Splitter, and that’s about all I can say about it.