Spurs continue domination of Grizzlies in 102-86 win

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It’s starting to look effortless.

San Antonio got pushed by a 22-8 run in the third quarter and threatened at times in the fourth, but there was always an answer. The Spurs are starting to be as sure a thing as death and taxes.

We’ve seen them run through a less-than-stellar schedule, winning games by an average of 11.3 points per 100 possessions during that eight-game win streak. But the Grizzlies came into a home game on Friday on a four-game winning streak of their own, looking more like the team that reached the Western Conference Finals last season. But the problem was, the Spurs’ 102-86 win in Memphis looked like a picture of last year’s Western Conference Finals, too.

Tim Duncan struggled from the floor again, but he continues to look good physically despite, ya know, being 37 years old. But again, the Spurs are blowing teams away in spite of their cornerstone’s offensive issues. Tony Parker had 20 points, Tiago Splitter had one of his best games of the season with 17 points and seven boards in just 26 minutes, and Manu Ginobili had a very Manu-esque 15-point, seven-assist, five-rebound stat line.

But back to Duncan for a second. He had eight points, six boards, four assists and two blocks in 32 minutes, and he did so on 3-of-8 shooting. Putting the ball in the basket continues to be a chore, but as you’d expect from one of the greatest players to ever live, he’s making big contributions elsewhere.

Duncan is currently averaging a career-high 4.4 assists per 36 minutes, and he’s dropping dimes at a better rate than he ever has. These sort of things tend to go unnoticed. Something is just off with Timmy right now, but the good news (I know we keep hammering this) is he looks like he’s moving very well up and down the floor. You have to believe his shooting woes will end at some point.

On the other side of the block, Splitter was great. You saw the earlier statistics already, but it gets even better. Splitter continues to play elite level defense. During the 26 minutes Tiago was on the floor with Zach Randolph, Z-Bo was just 2-for-10 from the floor and turned the ball over three times. While Duncan had his share of possessions defending Randolph, Splitter was the primary defender more often than not.

And once again, he’s one of the main reasons the San Antonio defense is playing at such a high level. Duncan wasn’t so shabby, either. He spent 32 minutes on the floor with Z-Bo himself, and during that time Randolph went 4-for-12 from the field. Basically, the Spurs have owned Randolph for a couple of years now. It’s like they look back on that 2011 playoff series and think, “Never again.”

Oh, and how about the bench? Or, as the Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw, Jeff Ayres lineup is being called, the ‘Foreign Legion?’ In nine minutes of action, this lineup produced a 130.4 offensive rating and stifled the Grizzlies with an 85.7 defensive rating. They’ve been unbelievable thus far this season, and when Memphis tied the game in the third quarter, they went to work. When Ayres subbed in for Duncan with 3:24 remaining in the third quarter of a tie game, and this lineup went on a 10-4 run to end the period.

The Spurs bench as a whole scored 45 points. The Grizzlies’ bench scored just eighteen.

Again, the trends continued: The Spurs won, it wasn’t the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen and Duncan wasn’t great. Hell, even superstar Bobo wasn’t great. But they still won by double digits.

It’s been easy for the Spurs thus far, and they’ve been able to win while playing great defense and still conserving energy. As of right now, Tony Parker leads the team at 31.6 minutes per game. Nobody else even averages thirty. So the Spurs continue to roll, beating teams by an average of 11.8 points per 100 possessions.

Next up: the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are having major issues at the moment. The Cavs lost again on Friday to a Pelicans team starting to find its footing, and they’re now 4-9 on the season. Tomorrow they take their shot at the 11-1 Spurs in San Antonio.