San Antonio Spurs 99, Memphis Grizzlies 95: Rested Spurs come back strong
AT&T CENTER — To call this a game of two halves isn’t enough. This was a game of several scenes, some longer than others. For the San Antonio Spurs, all that mattered was the finale ended in their favor, as the Spurs came back from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime and beat the Memphis Grizzlies 99-95.
The Spurs started off the game making head coach Gregg Popovich completely in tune with the ebbs and flows of his team, as a well-rested Tim Duncan had 21 points on 9-12 shooting, including one vicious throwdown on Marc Gasol, and eight rebounds in the first half against Memphis. Duncan finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and four assists. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, also recipients of some downtime this week, had 13 and seven points, respectively, in the first half. Parker was the Spurs’ leading scorer on the night with 30 points and six assists.
In the third quarter, the Grizzlies outscored the Spurs 27-15 to take a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter. Marc Gasol was the key cog in the third, as he and Memphis point guard Mike Conley ran the pick-and-pop to perfection on the Spurs. As Duncan has slowed down the last few years, the pick-and-pop has become one of the biggest weapons teams can use against the Spurs. San Antonio big men struggle to move quick their feet quick enough to help on the ball-handler and recover to their man. Gasol finished 6-7 from the floor in the quarter for 12 points. Conley had five assists in the period.
The Spurs went down by 14 points in the fourth quarter before Patty Mills sparked an 8-0 run that got the Spurs back in the game. Mills knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the Grizzly lead to 11, then on the next possession, he stole the ball from Memphis’ Quincy Pondexter after Pondexter came down with the rebound. Mills laid the ball in to cut the lead to nine points. On the next Spurs possession, Matt Bonner knocked down a 3-pointer to make it a six-point game.
“I thought that group gave us a spark,” Coach Pop said after the game. “They got real aggressive offensively and they did a great job defensively.
“They got us back into the ball game with their energy.”
It was an incredibly physical game, especially down the stretch. Zach Randolph, always a tough cover for the Spurs (and 95% of the league), had 15 rebounds on the night, but shot 5-21 from the floor. A big reason for that is how the Spurs defended Z-Bo. You don’t think about defending someone on rebounds, but that’s exactly what the Spurs had to do. When a shot went up, three players collapsed on Randolph, essentially gang tackling him in order to keep him from getting the ball. As his seven offensive rebounds would tell you, he still ended up with the ball, but there were usually a few Spurs still around him, leaning and pushing, contributing to a lot of Randolph’s missed shots.
I’m sure tired legs figured into the equation for Memphis. The Grizzlies played the Detroit Pistons Friday night in Memphis in a fairly close contest and had to a face a partially-rested Spurs lineup on Saturday. For the Spurs, getting the win was important. Part of the logic in giving up Thursday’s game against the Heat was because of the tie-breaker implications in beating a Western Conference foe in Memphis. Losing to the Grizzlies would’ve given plenty of ammo to those who disagreed with Pop’s decision to rest his players on Thursday.
Some other notes from the Spurs’ win over Memphis:
- Danny Green left the game in the third quarter with tightness in his hamstring. No word on if he’ll miss Wednesday’s game against the Bucks. Green was the only member of Thursday’s absentee group that had a bad game. Green finished 0-7 from the field, six of those misses coming from the 3-point line, before leaving with injury.
- Seriously, Tim Duncan obliterated Marc Gasol:
- After the effort they put in against the Heat on Thursday night, the Spurs reserves looked gassed against Memphis. Other than the first half of the fourth quarter, the vast majority of San Antonio’s production came from Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
- Can’t say enough about the job Matt Bonner did in the fourth quarter on Zach Randolph. Bonner worked hard in battling for position with Randolph and did a decent job on the boards, all things considered. Bonner also spent some time on Gasol in the fourth quarter and overtime and held his own there as well. Throw in the big 3-pointer he hit and his 20 minutes of action were pretty important.
- It’s good to see Duncan, Parker and others showing the ability to go 40+ minutes. That was the key to the Oklahoma City series to some analysts, the fact that the young Thunder core could go almost an entire game in the lineup while the Spurs’ stars had to sit for longer stretches. Maybe sitting Duncan, Parker and Ginobili for more games and playing them longer in the ones they do take part in could be a better strategy to prepare for the playoffs. Nevermind, that probably opens up a whole new can of worms.