San Antonio Spurs 103, Memphis Grizzlies 82: Spurs hit their marks

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AT&T CENTER — The Memphis Grizzlies are a tough matchup for the Spurs, no matter how you slice it. Frankly, the Grizz are a tough matchup for anybody in the league, but they’re probably the worst team San Antonio could go up against in a seven game series.

Thus is the life you live as a fluid offensive team. Tough, physical teams like the Grizzlies are going to be a problem if you’re not operating at an elite level. On Wednesday night at the AT&T Center, the Spurs were operating at about as high a level as they could against that frontline.

The result was an emphatic 103-82 win in which Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich proclaimed “It was one of our better games.”

Before the game, Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins explained to the gathered media that one of the core principles of Memphis’ defense, and how they create turnovers, was to keep the opponent out of the lane.

“We try to take away the lane, we try to be aggressive,” Lionel Hollins said. “We try to get where they don’t know we are. We talk about deflections, getting our hands up all the time.”

The Grizzlies sure do make it tough for teams to get in the paint, I’ll give him that. In the first quarter, the Spurs only managed six points in the paint and created only two open looks from the 3-point line. They’re physical, hard to push around and disciplined, all good traits if you’re trying to cut off one area of the floor.

From the second quarter on, however, the Spurs created avenues into the lane, outscoring Memphis 40-20 in the paint and shooting 9-of-16 from the 3-point line, with the majority of those shots created from penetration.

“The guys did a great job of moving the ball and moving bodies,” Coach Pop said. “They weren’t catching and holding it. It was real fluid offensively.”

The third quarter was especially key for the Spurs, as San Antonio outscored Memphis 25-15, taking a stranglehold of the game. A big reason was how the Spurs were able to get out in transition and attack early in the shot clock. Tiago Splitter, in particular, did a good job of hustling down the floor in an effort to get easy baskets and early post position.

It seemed to me like the Spurs played at a much faster tempo in the second half, not necessarily getting more possessions out of the game, but simply moving quicker and keeping the pressure on the Grizzlies’ defense. I asked Pop after the game how much he had emphasized the pace at all at halftime.

“Not much. We scored. We were fine. We moved very well. I think we had 20 assists at the half. We talked more about the boards than anything else.”

Trust me, he was much gentler in person than it reads in print.

I’m not disagreeing with Pop, but it really seemed like the Spurs played at a quicker pace in the second half. However, I won’t argue with him about the rebounds. Stephen Jackson mentioned the emphasis on keeping the Grizzlies off the boards as well.

“The biggest part was allowing no offensive rebounds,” Jack said. “Once we stopped the offensive rebounding and started making shots, we were able to get a big lead.”

Indeed, the only offensive rebound the Spurs allowed in the second half was to Hamed Haddadi with 58 seconds left, after this one was done and dusted.

For the Spurs, this game was really the blueprint in how they need to play in order to have success against Memphis. They have to do whatever they can to keep the Grizzlies off of the offensive boards, while getting out in transition and played at a high tempo offensively. Doing those things are of the upmost importance against Memphis.

How much that can keep up in a seven game series full of game-to-game adjustments and a plethora of film is anyone’s guess, but that’s one of the reasons why playoff basketball is so fun. We’re not there yet, but it’s games like Wednesday night’s that make you feel like we’re getting close.

Notes from San Antonio’s win over Memphis

  • All those words and no mention yet of Tim Duncan’s 19 point, eight rebound, five block and four assist performance? Well, no, but in my defense he was my game MVP over at ESPN.com Daily Dime Live. Duncan was a rock and submitted another performance almost seems routine, when just a few months ago it would be cherished like an antique.
  • It’s games like these that make me think that it would take a hell of a haul to trade Stephen Jackson. Jack thrives in games like these where the game gets physical and the Spurs are looking for someone to stick their chin out and challenge someone. San Antonio needs his toughness in these games. Jack had eight points and five assists against the Grizz, hitting 2-of-5 3-pointers.
  • This was a quietly awesome game from Kawhi Leonard. The second-year forward scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting (hitting all three of his 3-point attempts) with two blocks and two steals. He also had four rebounds and three assists. Oh, he also defended Rudy Gay for much of the game. You’ve got to be happy with that kind of production.
  • Honorable mention in the quiet production department goes to Danny Green. Icy Hot scored eight points on 3-of-5 shooting (2-of-3 from 3) in his 20 minutes. He wasn’t depended on much, but he still came through with some solid production.
  • The win over Memphis might have been Boris Diaw’s best game of the season. Bobo was decisive and didn’t overpass, hitting 7-of-10 shots for 14 points. He also stood up to the physical play doled out by Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, which is surprising, because it’s Boris Diaw. Really, Diaw and Tiago Splitter both played extremely well when it came to matching up with the Grizzlies frontline. Splitter barely missed out on a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
  • The Cube Steaks outscored the Grizzlies bench 36-21 on the night.

Box score data courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=173600134 Ryan McShane

    You know Andrew is asking a question (postgame) when the interviewee has to look up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=173600134 Ryan McShane

    Stephen Jackson mentioned Boris and him have played on multiple teams. Turns out they were together in Atlanta and Charlotte (in Charlotte’s only playoff berth) :
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/CHA/2010.html
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/ATL/2004.html

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  • http://profiles.google.com/lordxar Ray Briggs II

    I didn’t start watching the game until the third but I was more impressed with the defense then anything else. Especially from the second unit (Mills, Jax, Diaw/Splitter). Mills was fighting over screens, rotations were great and Tiago was not taking any crap from Randolph.
    Spurs in Top 3 defensive efficiency as of today.