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


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.

  • The Heretic


  • Bob

    It only takes a full season and losing to the eight seeded Grizzlies for Pop to realize Tim/Tiago is good defense and can matchup with Gasol/Randolph. Plus it forces Randolph to defend someone taller than him. Alot of people thought they should have played more together last season. Instead Tim/Tiago probably played the least minutes out of any two players.

  • Anonymous

    In Manu we trust.

  • Tōn the Beat Counselor

    Was tonight a better defensive effort *any* of our games last year?  No games come to mind…

    Splitter was clearly more confident tonight that he was all last year.  He played admirably against Randolph and showed quick hands when reaching in and batting away the ball when Memphis’ bigs were setting up in the post.
    Loved loved loved all the turnovers we created (TP was in rare form) and the absolute HAVOC that Kawhi caused on defense (not to mention his rebounding).  This guy’s defense and energy is exactly what we’ve been looking for since Bowen left.  

    Can’t wait to see him guard LeBron and Melo.  Can’t wait to see him guard the perimeter in true half-court situations and against 1s and 2s as well, but man, he already seems like the Sefolosha/Brewer/Ariza/Mbah a Moute we’ve been pining for.  If Chip can help him develop his shot…wow.

    Favorite line-up tonight?  It was in the second half, and I’m not sure who the bigs were (TD and Blair?), but we had TP, RJ and Kawhi on the perimeter.  

    Adios 3 guard line-ups!

  • David

    Ewing theory in action for Memphis? they didnt resemble last playoffs team in the slightest

  • Tōn the Beat Counselor

    Good point.  If I recall correctly, Memphis really didn’t come together until Gay was out and they traded for Battier…which was after Tony Allen put the beat down on OJ Mayo lol

  • Pingback: Looking at the Spurs' rotation after one game()

  • Nima K.

    Memphis wasn’t playing at full gear IMO. Come playoff time, they’ll fire up again if we meet once again. Still, I’ll gladly take this win.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Nope. They came together for a five-game winning streak with both Allen and Gay going strong. THEN Rudy Gay went down. Don’t read too much into one game. Memphis will be tough–but so will we!

  • Bry

    Memphis lost Arthur (which makes their bench pretty shabby) and Battier. Gay is a great scorer, but Memphis’ defense was better after he got injured. Just as important, the Spurs leading scorer didn’t have a broken arm or miss time (like he missed the game #1 loss). It’s funny how nobody seems to point out from that series the fact that Timmy and especially Ginobili were far from 100% and Parker somehow got outplayed by Conley. Those things were a lot more important that silly obsessions with collecting 7-footers. I’ll admit that the Spurs do need one more post-player (and no, he doesn’t HAVE to be 7-feet tall) just because they only have four now and they’ll need rotation depth in this compacted schedule. But, other than that; they are looking very solid to me. They have continuity on their side as well (just look at Dallas and L.A.). By the way, what was with the early foul calls on Timmy? His third one as an offensive foul was absurd.

  • Nima K.

    My concerns (despite the W):

    1. We weren’t consistent. What’s up with that first quarter?

    2. We rely too much on Manu. What r we going to do if he gets injured? Lose all hope like we did when TD went out last season? I still remember it. The Spurs were like “oh God, Timmy’s out. We’re finished”. If we rely so much on our big 3, we won’t make it very far this season. RJ stepped up tonight, JA had his moments, Tiago played good defense, and KL showed a spark or 2. But to rely so heavily on one player? That’s just dangerous. The Spurs need to raise the bar if they want to get to the 2nd round IMO. And pop needs to give Manu lighter minutes! Pop should keep in mind what happened to Manu, when he needlessly played him in our last game against PHX.

    . I’m beginning to worry about Pop’s accelerating hair loss! It’s beginning to show!

  • Bry

    By the way, the cover photo is awesome. It looks like Manu is doing some kind of masochistic tango with his opponent.

  • spursfanbayarea

    Keep in mind that it was only one game and that our team has been together much longer than most teams. the advantage of corporate knowledge. But there were some definite positives to take away. Kahwi  came out with great energy on the offensive rebounding side and quick hands to get steals when players drove into the post. He had a lot of nerves and missed some easy bunnies that he will get better with as season progresses. Splitter played well and had two blocks while defending his player. first quarter was extremely rusty for out team, but with the shortened preseason a good effort. loved andersons confidence. ready to shoot at any time. 

  • Bry

    If you lose your leading scoring or best all-around player for the playoffs, your done. It doesn’t matter what team you are. You aren’t a champion-contender at that point. So, there’s not really a point in worrying about who will replace him. If Duncan misses the playoffs, we’re done. If Manu misses the playoffs, we’re done. That’s the way it goes in a sport where teams on the court are made up of five people. 

  • Wilksthequaker

    Good post, but disagree that “we have been together longer than most” – most teams returned a majority of their rotations (including the one the Spurs beat tonight, as well as that 0-2 team from LA). The Spurs are currently without 1/2 of last year’s backcourt (Hill and injured Neal), are integrating in new backup PGs, a guy in Anderson who spent all of last year hurt, a guy who rode the pine until it was too late in Splitter and last but not least Leonard.

    The TD-Manu-TP continuity helps, but everyone dealt with a short camp including the Spurs. Pop may actually be that good at managing a roster, even if we all complain about not getting that fifth big. Is it a cap/luxury tax reason (similar to only carrying 13 players) or a lack of FAs available? The other solution may be to get Leonard minutes at the 4 if anyone sits or gets in foul trouble.

  • spurholic in mumbai

    After 8 minutes of the first quarter, I was “here it goes again” the same queasy feling a spurholic had during the game 1 of the playoffs.  The overpowering of Memphis bigs and some mysterious calls on TD and he spurs were behind by almost 10.  Think we scored only 14 points in the first quarter, second quarter, scond unit we scored 30 points and more importanmtly held them to 19 points, despite an out of control point giard in TJ Ford.  Some scrappy defense and we were back in business at half time.

    IInd hald is still a blur…of happiness.  Vintage Manu, especially when the comfortable fourth quarter ;ead was quickly reducd from 14 to 7, Manumagic was visible, 5 straight points and the lead was back in the comfortable double digit zone.  TD’s remark of last year’s playoffs being too clear in his mind to play the tapes, this win should clear some of the bitter after taste away.

  • Timmay

    I remember a game against NO last season in which the Spurs used great swarming defense to make something of a 40 point turnaround … they had similar good games against OKC … but to play such good defense against the team that owned you in the playoffs … that was terrific.

    Now it still would be good to get a fifth big body, because how much minutes should Splitter play if Timmy sits out a B2B?

  • spurholic in mumbai

    After 8 minutes of the first quarter, I was “here it goes again” the same queasy feling a spurholic had during the game 1 of the playoffs.  The overpowering of Memphis bigs and some mysterious calls on TD and he spurs were behind by almost 10.  Think we scored only 14 points in the first quarter, second quarter, scond unit we scored 30 points and more importanmtly held them to 19 points, despite an out of control point giard in TJ Ford.  Some scrappy defense and we were back in business at half time.
    IInd hald is still a blur…of happiness.  Vintage Manu, especially when the comfortable fourth quarter ;ead was quickly reducd from 14 to 7, Manumagic was visible, 5 straight points and the lead was back in the comfortable double digit zone.  TD’s remark of last year’s playoffs being too clear in his mind to play the tapes, this win should clear some of the bitter after taste away.

  • MG20TD21

    agreed, that pic is awesome! it is my new desktop. Like a good neighbor is right. In Manu we trust

  • MG20TD21

    Completely agree Bry,. If the heat lost lebron they would be done, if the lakers lose kobe they are done, if okc loses durant they are done, if chi loses rose-same, knicks- melo or amare, etc. Clearly the only shot we have is if the big  three stay healthy and the youngins step up, including Tiago.

    Nima, while I agree that Manu’s minutes should surely  be monitored, the idea that we could contend without Manu is unrealistic. Any team that loses it’s best player is F@$%ed.

  • MG20TD21

    Leonard was a 3/4 in college. If we go small he can play the 4, but he is undersized for the position in the NBA-his length and tenacity may make him viable, but that remains to be seen. Seeing Pops propensity for playing small at times leads me to believe that Kawhi will see some minutes as the 4, hopefully not too many. I’m certainly of the idea that the boys need a 5th big. NEWS! Hope fully the front office can pull off some kind of trade or something to help out Timmy out.

  • MG20TD21

    I know the feeling you are talking anbout, luckily it left when the defense started playing. Glad there are fans in in the east, but it will always be bombay to me,

  • Bob

    Bonner still played too many minutes. He got saved by Tiago on defense a couple of times.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Splitter was great and if he keeps getting minutes like that he will be even better. TJ is too reckless. He’s trying to do too much we don’t need that from him. Just lead and pass the ball we don’t need him to be TP or Avery trying to force the issue inside. Arthur not being on the court and Battier leaving sure hurt them. We’ll take it. Clips will be a different story. We cannot commit any turnovers against that team.

  • spursfanbayarea

    Sorry should have been more clear. We returned the same starting five that we had for most of last year. You are correct in that we worked in the backup guards and small forwards. But as starters play majority of the minutes, it is a big advantage is the point I was making. 

  • spursfanbayarea

    Playing him at the four for very short spurts will be okay when he has to defend a 4 that is more of a shooter and not back to the basket type player. I agree with you that we need to keep him away from the 4 spot as much as possible. 

  • Nima K.

    Whatever happened to the TEAM concept the Spurs were famous for.

  • Thomasholdren

    We looked terrible in the beginning. 
    Cons  – TD is slow on both offense and defense 
                Leonard – How is this guy in the NBA? I will chalk the first one up to nerves but all he is, is a hustle player. Cant shoot, cant dribble, cant pass,  

                TJ Ford – Cant dribble or attack basket
                TP – No shot
                Bonner – Never in position Defensively 

    Pros –  RJ – actually played the best in the first half looked nice, funny when he pushed allen down
               Manu – Like always he steers the ship
               Blair – Looked trim, ran the floor well, actually posted up and abused randolph – HE Got caught with 3 fouls from other people’s men (TD/Bonner) beating them. 

    It comes down to being able to score the ball. We looked like trash a majority of the night chucking up 33 threes… *YIKES*  But this has to be our MO. TD cant score at will. 

    I think they would have kicked our behinds had Shane Battier been on this team. I liked how POP sat TD and gave minutes to the rookie and let us run. I didnt like Blair getting 10 min even with the 4 fouls. Let him play through it. 

  • Jesse Blanchard

    All the TEAM aspect in the world wouldn’t have made a difference if Duncan had gone down back when the Spurs were winning titles.

  • Bry

    They have an outstanding team concept, but one team can only overcome so much. Everybody was so distracted by Memphis’ frontcourt and crying about Bonner and Blair that they forgot about how injuries to key players (in the Spurs case their TWO BEST players) are practically insurmountable. Because of how good the Spurs have been for so long, they haven’t had a lottery pick since Duncan. That makes them even more vulnerable to injuries and age. Going into that series I expected the Spurs back-court to destroy Memphis’. They didn’t, and the Spurs lost a very close and hard-fought series (and no, Timmay, the Spurs certainly didn’t ‘get owned’).

  • Johncook

    I’m glad to see RJ & Tiago shutting haters up.

  • Bry

    The problem for Leonard will be the learning curve, rather than the size and strength of opposing PFs. With the 3 being a wing position and the 4 being the post, he’ll have a lot on his plate (just as Jefferson did) if he’s going to play significant time at both positions. I imagine that Pop will likely still have Jefferson play most of those small-ball minutes during Leonard’s rookie season. In the future, however, with his height and length he’ll have no problem playing the 4 and putting on a few pounds of muscle (he’s still only 20). He’d actually be a really good matchup against other teams’ 2nd string 4s or undersized starters like David West, Andray Blatche, etc.

  • Bry

    They were taking 3s because nearly every single one of them (apart from a couple Manu threw up) were wide open. Manu, Bonner, and Jefferson can all consistently hit 3s, so if Memphis leaves it open there’s little reason not to take them. They did really miss Battier in that department. I agree that TJ was trying to do too much, and yes, it was nice to see Blair finally use his power attacking Randolph, but their defense was excellent for the last three quarters and Duncan’s problems stemmed mostly from foul calls. I’m sure the Spurs didn’t come into the game expecting to take so many open 3s and see Randolph basically shut down, but they saw the opportunity and dominated. Great work. And it was nice to see Tony outplay Conley.

  • ATL20/20

    Every game won this season is leverage in PTM (Player Time Management).  Multiply that by wins vs. division/conference opponents.  Yes, MG20TD21 nailed it re: injury to your go-to guy – it would surely be one-and-done without one of the Big Three.  But they and Pop have a long memory, they ought best to know how to engineer a shortened season while introducing new faces to the system.  Think that had something to do with Manu’s b-t-b “Welcome to my neighborhood” dish to KaWhy(not)?  And, if anything was learned from last season, it was surely this: reload the Spurs mystique in the league by doubling down on D.  You can bet that was the message delivered at the half last night, and implemented in the second half.  D keeps you in the game.  D ensures you’ve always got a shot come crunch time.  D builds team chemistry.  And chemistry begets wizardry.  Time to put a spell on the NBA!

  • Anonymous

    Wow, so much I disagree with on this post, where to start? Well firstly, it doesn’t matter IF they had Battier, cause they don’t. IF we had Dwight Howard, we’d be a better defensive team.
    Secondly, “TP – No Shot” – He had a bad shooting game, so what? He played good D and had 7 assists.

    Tim got in foul trouble early, he was a +10 when he was in the game and he only played 21 mins. Tbh I thought he looked pretty good, he ran the floor well and done ‘Tim Duncan’ things. Though he did have that moment where he tried to take Marc Gasol one-on-one and Pop had his hands on his head the whole time lol

    Agreed Bry, we took so many threes cause they were wide open. Those shots will go down on another night.

    Splitter was a massive Pro on this game, his defense was nothing short of stellar. He won’t be that good all season but he showed us his potential against one of the better frontlines in the league.

    And finally, Leonard’s in the NBA because he can play defense and he rebounds. It was his first game and he more than held his own against one of the top 5/6 SFs in the league. Yeah Gay got some scores on him but he also forced him into some poor shots. Leonard didn’t make some shots but his offensive game will develop over the coming years, I think he has quite a good future ahead of him, if healthy.

  • Nima K.

    Yes, but back then, we could have said the same thing about TP, and Manu, and Bowen and even Finley. Nowadays, the team can do without JA or Neal or Blair or almost anybody except the big 3. Our current team seems to be a contender only if the big 3 are well. And that’s a weakness IMO, unless the reserves markedly fill in.

  • rj

    good things in the box score

    leonard with 6 boards off the bench, anderson with 9pts
    tiago chips in with 8 boards, 2 blks, 2 steals

    looks like our second unit won’t be hell bent on scoring, but providing solid defense to maintain a lead or chip away at a deficit. it also appears that duncan and splitter could be finishing games together. we need another interior presence with our second unit in splitter, but pairing them to finish games will vastly improve our defense down the stretch.

    curious to see how gary neal fits into all this..

  • Ton the Beat Counselor

    No way are we overpaying! Manu has a great contract!

  • Bry

    That’s par for the course. Look at the Lakers and the Mavs. The Lakers lose Lamar Odom, and basically as the ‘analysts’ said they were not contenders anymore. Now that’s a team that still has Bynum, Gasol and Kobe Bryant. The same goes for the the Mavs. They lose Chandler (but they keep Nowitzki, Terry, and Marion) and NOBODY has them even going deep into the playoffs, much less repeating as champs. You can still have a successful season and good playoff run without one of your top two players, but it removes you from title contention. That’s not a ‘weakness’; it’s just a fact. The only possible example in the modern history of the NBA that comes to mind is perhaps the 2004 Pistons. But, I’ll argue that if they lose Billups OR Wallace; they fail. The Spurs have plenty of depth this year; and they’ll need every bit of it. But their fate still lies in the hands of the Big 3; just like every title contender in the league.

  • Randy9798

    yes against other teams backup bigs or undersized 4’s. But against other teams starters thats too much to ask. He can be a really good defensive on ball defender and rebounder at the 3 position. There is also a small chance he could still grow and add an inch or two. And if he can get to 6 9 with his great wingspan , it wouldnt be as much of a mismatch. Sort of similar to how elton brand plays bigger than listed height due to his really long arms. 

  • DorieStreet

    Some minutes with Leonard at the 4 reduces Bonner’s time out there (which most of the Spurs complain about–keep Matt below 15 minutes). If the rookie can sink his 3’s,  say at a  40-44%  clip (he definitely was given the opportunity last night -5 out of 9 shots beyond the arc),  we suddenly have a new dynamic for this unique season.

  • DorieStreet

    When all is said and done, will Manu get the acclodes he deserves as one of the greatest foreign players ever to play in the NBA? (A fifth title would help—-)

  • DorieStreet

    First game – delayed 2 months (season usually starts JUST BEFORE HALLOWEEN, NOT THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS / a training camp of  2 WEEKS instead of 1 and 1/2 MONTHS / 2 preseason games in 5 days (against the same opponent) instead of a minimum 7 games–against different teams?????

    All 30 teams play 9 games in the first 13 days—can you at least wait until then to give a credible critique when there is a body of work that can be a benchmark to look at.

  • DorieStreet

    Two words to remember (from Andrew A. McNeill’s post-game blog “Jumping to conclusions on the rotation…already”)    – Flexibility and Malleability –

    Neal’s return will insure a scoring presence on the second team. When the team goes small (at select times and versus some opponents) it could be a squad that can put up points in a hurry (won’t put the names out there yet==only 1 game of 66 played).

    With 2/3rds of the 66 games in a consecutive night matchups, the opportunities for Gary Neal to find his niche in the rotation will be there.

  • Randy9798

    I think Gary neal will actually have less of an impact on this years spurs team. This year we are more loaded at the wing positions and anderson and leonard are much better defenders than neal. Neal will be a good spark off the bench for a few minutes here and there, but I do not expect him to be playing 20 minutes a game as he did for us last year. That was more out of necessity than due to his skill set. Anderson can create his shot more easily and is a much better finisher at the rim. TJ won’t get pressured as much to bring the ball up the court. Neal is much less effective when he has to bring the ball up the court. I see Neal being a situation guys off the bench in short burst when 3 point shots are needed. We should be excited we have larger options in the backcourt. 

  • NYC

    Get used to it, buddy. It’s Istanbul now, not Constantinople, and even old New York was once New Amsterdam…

  • spursfanbayarea

    “The Golden State Warriors continue to reshape their frontcourt.After taking a stab at Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, settling for free agent pickup Kwame Brown and shipping Lou Amundson to the Indiana Pacers, the Warriors have signed free agent center Kyrylo Fesenko to a 1-year contract worth $1.1 million,according to ”  We couldnt have taken a low risk with him for one year??? How is it we lose out players to clipps,warriors, raptors??

  • Thomasholdren

    The front court pwned the spurs and TD/McDyess. The PF/C out scored our starting PF/C by almost 90 pts 204 to 110. They outrebounded our PF/C 129-93

    You throw Bonner into that mix and they still outscore us by 66 and outrebound us by 17…. 

    Our backcourt never really had the shot to outscore anyone since we didnt push the ball and couldnt get into a rhythm. 

  • Anonymous

    A situation of “rooks” don’t get playing time that back fired in Pop’s face last year. And another reason that shows…training camp (lack of time in training camp) is an overly rated excuse to not playing talent than just letting them play in real games throughout the course of the season.

    He’ll be forced to “allow” rooks and journeymen to play more minutes this year.

    What ever possessed him (Pop) to think (and then with proof it did not work) continue to use the Blair/Bonner combo was beyond comprehension last year.  Yet the moment he allowed Splitter to get some significant time in that series…Tiago proved to be better himself than that combo.  Oh well…it was another wasted moment (season)  in Tim’s career.

    Hopefully that won’t be the case this year.

  • Bob

    The lack of adequate frontcourt defense hurt. It basically negated the perimeter advantage. The Spurs perimeters players were spending so much time helping they gave the Grizzlies perimeter players wide open jumpers. Battier hit some critical threes that were basically wide open.