San Antonio Spurs 93, Memphis Grizzlies 87: Don’t sweat the technique
Luckily, after 48 minutes of game action on Wednesday night, the return of Manu Ginobili to San Antonio’s lineup was enough to help the Spurs even the series with the Memphis Grizzlies in a 93-87 win, and keep a playoff run alive.
Ginobili brings the edge to this Spurs team that no other player does. It should be enough that Manu is arguably the best player on the roster, and yet he brings the ruthlessness like no other. DeJuan Blair has hustle and motor, and Neal oozes a quiet fearlessness, but no one brings the edge to the Spurs like Manu.
“Everyone knows what kind of competitor Manu is,” Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. “Just to have him on the floor is a plus for the psyche of the whole team, without a doubt.
“And, on top of that, he played pretty well.”
In Sunday’s Game 1 loss, the Spurs managed just 13 assists on 28 field goals, and Tony Parker mentioned after morning shootaround that not having Manu in the lineup meant that Parker would be running the bulk of the pick-and-rolls during the game. Normally, he said, it was closer to a 50-50 split. With Ginobili back in for Game 2, the Spurs assists on 21 out of their 32 field goals.
Having both players in the lineup allows the Spurs to attack at different angles and with different styles, and allow both players to attack pick-and-rolls with slightly fresher legs than they would with the other.
Parker and Ginobili combined for 11 of the Spurs’ 21 assists, though the pair also contributed seven turnovers. Five of those miscues from Ginobili.
“I felt a little rusty on the pick-and-rolls,” Ginobili said postgame. “I wasn’t very sharp on finding my teammates on the rolls or the shooters in the corners.”
On the defensive end, the Spurs were able to hold Memphis below 40% shooting on the game and limited Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, who gave the Spurs fits on Sunday, to a combined 23 points.
The Spurs did it by swarming down low, sending help defense from many different angles. One play it would be Manu flying down the baseline to try and block a shot, the next George Hill would drop down from the top of the key to swipe at the ball.
“They were very physical and they attacked [Randolph] every time he put the ball on the floor,” Grizzlies Head Coach Lionel Hollins said. “They did what they set out to do, they took the ball out of his hands.”
A bulk of the defense played on Randolph was by Antonio McDyess who battled hard in the lane. Tim Duncan also spent some time on Randolph, which was a bit of a change from Game 1. But at this point in his career, Duncan isn’t quick enough to keep up with Randolph for long stretches, especially when Z-Bo faces up and looks to put the ball on the floor.
San Antonio was able to survive, holding Randolph and Gasol to a combined 7-of-23 from the floor and outrebounding Memphis 48-47. Gasol did grab 17 of the Grizzlies’ 47 boards, though.
It wasn’t a pretty game, as it’s hard for two teams shooting sub-45% to produce one, but it was the kind of result that the Spurs will need to be able to recreate on the regular. Like Saturday night, for instance.