San Antonio Spurs 95, Memphis Grizzlies 88: Manu from heaven

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AT&T CENTER — Last time the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies hooked up at the AT&T Center, Zach Randolph put up 24 points and 21 rebounds, Tony Parker scored 37 points and the Spurs won.

Sunday night was the same, except different. Randolph grabbed eight rebounds in the first quarter alone and looked on his way to match his numbers from that mid-December game. Manu Ginobili scored 35 points on 22 shots and the Spurs won 95-88. You see, the same, but different.

With Rudy Gay out for a while, Randolph is the center of the Grizzlies offense and the Spurs were well aware of that. Z-Bo faced two types of double-teams from the Spurs defense. There was the additional man that rotated over to guard Randolph when he caught the ball in the post, and there was the second defender who came to cover Randolph whenever a shot went up.

Very few players are privileged enough to get that kind of treatment from the Spurs defense, but Randolph is one of them. After his eight first quarter rebounds, Randolph “only” had nine more the rest of the night, finishing with 17 and 24 points. It took Z-Bo 25 shots to get those 24 points, though. I asked Coach Pop after the game if he was satisfied with the job the Spurs bigs did against Randolph on the boards.

“Well, coaches are never satisfied,” Coach Pop said.

Okay, I deserved that one.

“But as I said, McDyess did really good job defensively. I thought DeJuan and Matty did the best they could fronting him; they played him tough. He had to work for everything he got and that’s all you can do with a great player like Zach.”

San Antonio had a 20-point lead in the second quarter, but went on what can only be described as a dry spell of Sahara Desert-like proportions that lasted from mid-way through the second quarter to the beginning of the fourth quarter. That 20-point lead turned into a four-point deficit at the beginning of the final frame.

But three straight 3-pointers from Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner (twice) got the offense going somewhat and the Spurs did that thing where they kept it close and out-executed Memphis down the stretch. Ginobili’s 11 free throws in the fourth quarter were a big reason why.

Execution down the stretch was a hallmark of previous Spurs title teams, but was sorely missed last season. With the transition from a dump-it-down-to-Tim clutch offense to a give-the-ball-to-Manu-at-the-top-of-the-key-and-someone-set-a-pick version, the Spurs have reestablished that execution that has enabled them to win so many close games. Though one could argue that it never should have come to that on Sunday night.

Though with the All-Star Break come and gone and the games getting more intense and physical, it’s nice to see the Spurs offense stand up to the pressure when it matters.

One more win to get 50 for the season, keeping the streak alive. Safe to say that’ll happen at some point before the end of the year.

  • rob

    @ Bankshot21

    Good point about Cousins continuing play with the Toros. I would like to inject that if the Spurs roster stands at only 13 by the time playoffs role around (I think) Cousins could be called up to the team. At which time it wouldn’t matter if he was 14th on an 11 man rotation but assurance to having a player (granted young and a rookie) that would have some sort of “corporate knowledge” in case injury to one of our bigs happens to happen during the playoffs.