Parker, Spurs leave Grizzlies in the mud
Tim Duncan told us this wouldn’t be pretty. That a bruising, slug-it-out bar fight would be the battle we’d get between two defensive monsters. For one game, Duncan was wrong. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be right when this thing is a wrap.
The Tony Parker offense was back in full effect. Even against one of the most vicious, physical teams in the NBA, the Spurs’ point guard seemed to have free rein from baseline to baseline. Penetration into the teeth of the Memphis defense was shockingly easy, and the kick-outs turned lethal once the Grizzlies collapsed.
San Antonio hit 14 of the 29 three-pointers they attempted, outscoring Memphis by 27 points from the arc in a 105-83 Game 1 beatdown that certainly set a tone for the series ahead. But caution must be exercised.
The Spurs got anything they wanted on Sunday afternoon, and it’ll probably be the last time that’s the case.
“Memphis has the best defense in the NBA. They do a great job of packing in the paint, and they force you to make shots,” Parker said. “And (today) we made shots.”
Sometimes it’s as simple as that, just making shots. But in the series opener, the shots were there because the Spurs offense created them. They weren’t just being jacked up along with a prayer.
“Making 14 threes against one of the best defensive teams in the league is not easy to do. It shows that we moved the ball very well,” Manu Ginobili said after the game. “We attacked. We made the big ones. Kawhi (Leonard) and Danny (Green) were fantastic, and of course Matt (Bonner) in the first half.
“When you are making shots like that, everything opens up and makes the game easier.”
Speaking of Matt Bonner, he’s beginning to outplay the ‘Winter Shoes’ moniker. The “Red Mamba” hit four of his six 3-point attempts — five of which were almost completely uncontested — and each of them seemed to add on to a lead that would prove to be insurmountable. But Bonner quickly shifted the focus of the questioning to the defensive side of the ball, where the effort was equally as impressive.
The Spurs held the Grizzlies to just 83 points on 43 percent shooting, and the man who destroyed them in 2011, Zach Randolph, went 1-for-8 from the floor and didn’t score his only two points until there were just nine minutes left in the game. If Randolph can count the number of points he scored by throwing up a peace sign, you know the defense likely played well.
“The 3-point shot is obviously the story of the game, but the real story story is the defense and the job we did rebounding the ball as a team,” Bonner said. “We are going to have to bring that same intensity moving forward.
“It’s just one game. We are probably not going to shoot like that every game, so we need the defense and the rebounding.”
And he’s right. It’s unlikely that 3-pointers will fall like that for an entire series. Just ask the Warriors. But one thing that can remain a constant is the way the offense was humming along, regardless of made shots. And if those open looks keep coming, don’t be surprised if shots do keep falling.
This series is still going to be won on the defensive end, however. You know the Grizzlies will make adjustments in whatever capacity they need to prevent the almost inexcusable number of wide-open attempts they granted one of the best shooting teams in the league. And the one constant in basketball is, after all, defense. It’s the reason both of these teams are still here.
But if Parker goes for 20 points and nine assists every night, if Green and Leonard combine for 34 points and seven 3-pointers, and if two players off the bench can put up double digits, the Spurs will have a hell of a chance to get to Duncan’s fifth NBA Finals.
Memories of last year’s Western Conference Finals are still pretty fresh on the minds of basketball fans, though. The Spurs took a 2-0 lead in that series and seemed to be unstoppable, until they failed to win another game. While there is a cautionary tale in existence, the current storyline is a bit different. This Grizzlies team is not that Thunder team, and the relative lack of offensive firepower beyond their two big men is going to be an issue moving forward against a Spurs defense that is much improved from last season.
This time, there is no Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook or James Harden. But there is a group of players in the Memphis locker room that’s going to do everything they can to make this thing as ugly as it can get.
And the Spurs will be ready. This time, they’re ready to play in the mud. But if Parker has his way, they’ll never have to get dirty.