San Antonio Spurs 95, Memphis Grizzlies 82: Like a good neighbor, Manu is there….with a Spurs victory

by

AT&T Center–If San Antonio Spurs rookie Kawhi Leonard learned anything during training camp, it was to be prepared when Manu Ginobili has the ball.

The Spurs All-Star shooting guard spotted Leonard sitting alone in the corner as he split two defenders in typical Manu Ginobili fashion–a quick between-the-legs dribble followed by a wrap around no-look pass. Leonard hit his first NBA career three-pointer, sending the AT&T Center crowd into a frenzy and Manu Ginobili trending worldwide on Twitter.

“The coaches told me to be ready in that spot and he’ll get me the ball,” said Leonard. “He throws some unique passes.”

While Ginobili may always find ways to deliver something new, eventually teammates learn nothing is unexpected. Richard Jefferson, somewhat of an expert on playing alongside special playmaking guards, was quick to let the rookie know more would be on its way.

“Well, I was fortunate because I played with Jason Kidd for seven years,” Jefferson said. “It only took me about a game or two to realize that Manu was capable of the same things.”

In the second half Manu Ginobili was everywhere, like an insurance agent from those State Farm commercials, showing up magically from out of nowhere with whatever the San Antonio Spurs happened to need at that moment.

[pullquote]In the second half Manu Ginobili was everywhere, like an insurance agent from those State Farm commercials, showing up magically from out of nowhere with whatever the San Antonio Spurs happened to need at that moment.[/pullquote]

Ginobili was the answer to every Grizzlies run, whether it was through scoring (24 points), passing (four assists), rebounding (five) or defense (three steals).

“He just does so much for our team,” Jefferson said. “He spread the ball around, he takes tough shots, plays great defense. He got a couple of steals.”

The San Antonio Spurs starting backcourt of Tony Parker (15 points, seven assists) and Ginobili helped flip the script on Memphis, taking a page out of the Grizzlies playbook with seven of the team’s 13 steals. Parker was particularly active in the fourth quarter, most notably stripping Mike Conley on back-to-back possessions as the Spurs pulled away.

“I think the defense fueled what we did. We played a very good defensive game, very active,” Popovich said. “We crowded things, got back in transition, got our hands on a lot of balls, a lot of deflections.”

It was the Spurs swarming, active defense that helped them overcome early foul trouble to their thin frontline. Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair each picked up three fouls early in the first half, leaving second-year big man Tiago Splitter (five points, eight rebounds, two blocks) to hold the fort through the second quarter.

Splitter was active, using his length and positioning to keep Zach Randolph (3-8, 10 points, six rebounds) and Marc Gasol (5-6, 13 points, six rebounds) well below the prestigious heights they reached last season in eliminating the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.

Even more promising, Splitter was able to emphatically turn back two shots at the rim as part of a key defensive run that saw the Spurs hold the Grizzlies to 14 points in the quarter.

“I thought that Tiago was really good defensively, really solid,” San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “He stayed in good position, he blocked shots, he rebounded. He was real special tonight. He deserves a lot of credit.”

As positive as the Spurs defensive performance was, it was also not without some qualifiers.

Much of the Grizzlies sloppy play (24 turnovers) can be attributed to a shortened training camp and their own shoddy decision making (Rudy Gay with 18 shot attempts to Zach Randolph’s eight attempts).

“Our defense got better every quarter,” Jefferson said. “But you don’t to give too much credit to our defense right now.

“Every team has had just a couple of weeks to practice. Marc Gasol just to to camp a week and a half ago, so they’re going to be a much better team, as are we, so we have a lot of work to do.”

For a night at least the San Antonio spurs got a look at a little of what was missing in the playoffs last season–an active defense, and a reliable Manu Ginobili.

  • Bob

    I am not sure how Neal will fit in. However I think Neal can give the team a different look. He gives the team a ball handler that has to be guarded beyond the three point line. So that immediately helps spacing. It will also allow him to get into the paint because they have to respect his shot.

  • Bry

    Of course you count Bonner in the mix. He played heavy minutes and was guarding their front-court (not very well). We came into the series expecting their front-court to be better and our backcourt to be better. Randolph and Gasol had great seasons and playoffs, so that part wasn’t a surprise (although I thought Dice would do a better defensive job). But, what failed us was guardplay and our 3-point shooting fell off of a cliff. Conley suddenly looked like an All-Star and the Spurs suddenly appeared to be one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the entire playoffs. Even so, it was a very close series, and despite all of that and key injuries they could have easily won.

  • Bry

    I think it shows just how much depth the Spurs have in the backcourt that we’re now talking about how many minutes Neal can get. Neal will have to duke it out with Ford and Anderson. Those are the guys that will take over Hill’s minutes from last year. I would agree that his minutes would drop because of that if we were in a normal season. But, because of how compact the season is and Ginobili’s age, I imagine that every rotational player down to the 10th man is going to have heavier than expected minutes. Pop will occasionally give Manu and even Parker days off throughout the season, and that will give a boost to Anderson, Neal, Ford and maybe even Green. You’re going to see more young players getting substantial minutes for the Spurs this year than any time in recent memory. It’ll be fun to watch.

  • Anonymous

    If Leonard grows another inch (perhaps 2) I’ve envisioned him to become a Josh Smith type of player.

    Now wouldn’t that be awesome?

  • Anonymous

    Remember…”The Spurs don’t just want to through any big in the rotation”.

    With that quote in mind…I feel the Spurs (unless they can somehow manage to get a top tier post player) are going to stand pat.

    But I agree…on the surface…it doesn’t make sense.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Fesenko at this point is a better body than Blair or Bonner to throw at big opposing C/PF’s.

  • Thomasholdren

    Close series? 4-1… The issue was McDyess wouldnt contest anything outside of the paint and wasnt quick enough to close out properly. The addition of McDyess not being able to take it to the rim and draw a foul (something blair does better) allowed the FC to stay in the game. 

    Our 3pt shooting took a dump, but due to change of tempo/scheme. 

    ….coaching…. 

  • spursfanbayarea

    Agreed

  • spursfanbayarea

    To get a top tier big man we would have to make a significant trade. Not that I am opposed to that idea. But I am baffled that the team wont take a flyer on these low risk 1 yr contracts on big bodies. Just the fact its a compressed season would be useful to have another big body to take on some minutes. On the end of our back-back-back, we will only have splitter as a big if we sit out duncan. 

  • Thomasholdren

    He’s tiny, in terms of bulk at the 4. But there is no way in hell he could be a worse defender than Matt Bonner in the paint. 

    In the opener Matt Bonner hits his first three in less than a minute into the game. Im a Bonner hater, so I thought “hmmm this may be the year that matt isnt a wimp and gets some confidence.” 

    LITERALLY, BONNER TROTS DOWN THE COURT, his man gets the ball (BEHIND HIM) Spurs try to switch and help, Gasol passes to open Allen for 2. 

    This is the issue with Bonner. It doesnt matter how many 3s he makes if we continue to trade buckets and give and1′s to the opponent. 

    Although Leonard is green, there is NO WAY he would get beat going back on D. Give him the minutes in the post NOW instead of trying it for the first time in the playoff opener. 

  • Anonymous

    I am with you 100%.  Perhaps the Spurs are waiting for K-Mart or they are trying a trade scenario so they won’t want to sign just anybody?  Who knows.

    To me…that would be the only reason worth explaining as to why they let go of Lawal and/or wouldn’t offer the same or more to Fesenko.

  • spursfanbayarea

    5 out of 9. where did you get that stat from. He shot 1 for 5 from threes in the game. 

  • spursfanbayarea

    Would like to get Kmart, but he won’t be eligible until march at the earliest due to china not allowing fiba clearance until the players past team is finished. could be a little bit longer if that team makes the playoffs. Would also be hard to break into pop’s rotation with only a month to go into the regular season. And knowing popovich we would probably hear “these playoffs are not for kenyon martin”.  

  • Dr. Who

    They Might Be Giants!!!

  • Bry

    Umm, it was 4-2. The Spurs were leading with less than 2 minutes to go in game 1 (with Ginobili out) and managed to lose the game. They also managed to lose game 6 after leading halfway through the 4th period. That doesn’t seem like a close series to you?

  • Bry

    I think he meant that 5 of his 9 field goal attempts were from beyond the arc.

  • Lvmainman

    Maybe they are thinking of trading Gasol for Kwame Brown now to get a better team.

  • Bob

    The series wasn’t that close. The Spurs were blown out in game 4 and escaped game 5 with some lucky shots. The Spurs never really played like a number one seed.

  • ivo passos

    Ewing theory in action for Memphis? they didnt resemble last playoffs team in the slightes…Visit http://www.mynbatv.com to watch live streams from NBA