Parker, Spurs leave Grizzlies in the mud

by

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.


  • do the math

    “The “Red Mamba” hit four 3-pointers — five of which were almost completely uncontested “

  • told there wouldn’t be math…

    that’s how you know it was a really good game…

  • DorieStreet

    Got to get game 2; don’t want to sit on a loss for three days before game 3 in Memphis Saturday night.

  • fkj74

    This team is better than last year’s team and the Grizz do not have a Hardin to heat 25 foot threes with a hand in his face. Man that still hurts:< Go Spurs!

  • http://twitter.com/Matthew_Tynan Matthew R Tynan

    Thanks. Fixed.

  • Bob

    The issue with last year’s team was defense. It’s easy to say OKC shoot really well but really the defense wasn’t at the level it needed to be at. This team is at the level where they don’t need to outscore the other team to win. That’s puts less pressure on the offense and allows it to be more free flowing.

  • junierizzle

    I think you mean step-back 25 foot threes with a hand in his face. Yes, it still hurts. But you’re right. I stated in the other post that the Grizz just can’t score enough. No game changers on the perimeter.

  • STIJL

    Perhaps the best preparation the Spurs had in playing Memphis was the series before against Golden State. That series forced the Spurs to be mentally tough and perform well in every category. Not saying this series is over or that Memphis won’t make adjustments more so than the Spurs have already been tested as best they could against the Warriors which will make it tough for Memphis to throw anything at the Spurs they haven’t had to overcome.

    They played great. Hope this keeps up throughout the series. Go Spurs Go!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Sauer/645387978 Christopher Sauer

    Sorry, Bob. But, last I checked, you do indeed need to outscore the other team to win. ;)

  • Melbourne Spur

    Loved it. Just flat out loved it. All except Manu who has me worried – he’s even missing FTs????

  • Gary Goodson

    I think he means, unlike with the Warriors, the Spurs offense isn’t competing with the Grizz offense. The Spurs offense just needs to do what it does while the defense suffocates the Grizz. The Spurs offense will not need to respond to the Grizz offense, aslong as the defense keeps the pressure on. Or, to state it inelegantly, they don’t have to outscore the other team.

  • TheFG21

    Yes! I thought the same thing. Warriors youngsters brought out the best of the Spurs veterans and made them play at a very high level. If you stopped guarding Curry/Thompson for a split of a second, they made you pay instantly.

  • TheFG21

    Manu’s FT problems can be couple of things.

    1) He reinjured his broken left hand.

    or

    2) Mind/techniques problem that I’m sure he’s working on it if thats the case. I bet it’s very difficult once you’ve bricked your mind. Remember C.Knoblauch? Once one of the BEST fielders in MLB, suddenly started to have this kind of mental insecurities that lead to throwing problems?

  • http://www.facebook.com/priceperhead1 Jake Richards

    Yeah! Great game and excellent work guys. You are the best. Keep it up Spurs!!

  • zainn

    I just wish Manu wouldn’t chunk up “hero ball” shots like he’s been doing these playoffs. He even had an airball game 1 of this series. If he’s open to set his feet and take a shot and see the basket, then he should take it. If not, he has an underrated passing ability that he uses to perfection. He brings so much attention that I wish he would use that attention to give opportunities to other players for a more efficient offense. It’s not something bad in the short run, but can definitely be devastating in the long run.

  • Pingback: Matt Bonner silences critics as he comes through in playoffs()