Fresh off wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New Jersey Nets, the Spurs welcomed the Memphis Grizzlies into their house. I thought about trying to make the title something catchy, but I'm finding myself lacking the appropriate words to describe this game. The Spurs won, in spite of their best efforts and a mountain load of injuries. It was a tough, gritty game that saw us lose Tony Parker to something called a contusion, as well as temporary boo-boo's to Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair, and Manu Ginobili.
Even a referee tore ligaments in his knee. (Maybe he should consider getting them removed ;-)If I said the Spurs came out like gangsters…well, that would be an understatement. We got a whole game’s worth of highlights in the first 4 minutes alone, at least one of which came complete with a very flattering analogy from Sean. "Look at Blair land like Shamu in the water!" I'm sure DeJuan will appreciate that. On to a bit of play by play, followed by the rest of the usual SFS-cap.
I just want to say that the most beautiful thing in the world is Tim Duncan throwing outlet passes to DeJuan Blair. Nothing else is close.
Can I take that back? Watching Duncan block 3 Zach Randolph shots, then BlairNobili (when was the last time we said that?) combine to block ZBo’s 4th attempt on the same possession? It led to an open Manu 3 (an unfortunate miss) that had it gone in would have sent the arena into a frenzy. It would have been bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
For having such good rebounders as Randolph and Marc Gasol, we sure didn’t seem to be having much of a problem grabbing boards. I missed the last two minutes of the first quarter because of "technical difficulties". Fortunately, that didn't last long.
George Hill ran the pick and roll and when his defender went under the screen, Hill pulled up and nailed a 3. Who needs to find the roll guy when you can do that? Manu took a Randolph paw to the face and lay on the floor for nearly a minute, which is, of course, quite long for him. Sean warns us: "Do not hurt that man, it’ll wake him up, and he’s already awake." Seconds later, Antonio McDyess came up with a loose ball and got it to Manu who tossed an alley-oop for your typical boring old Spur James Anderson. Wait, he's young and athletic? Can't be - not on this boring team.
Hill nailed another pull-up 3 while running the pick and roll, then drove a few feet in and nailed a jumper. He’s in rhythm and he may not miss again.
OK. The Grizz started to get some offensive rebounds, but they weren’t able to convert most into second chance points, and most of the rebounds were coming off tips and such. I’m not worried about those, especially since we’ve held them to 2-15 shooting this quarter. At that point, they were shooting 22% for the game. That’s some good ol’ fashioned Spurs defense.
Sean and Bill started reminiscing about Joey Crawford technicals. Good times, which ended with an absolutely horrid finish to the half. The Spurs let a 20 point lead get trimmed to an 8 point lead. Should have been up 30. Bad offensive execution and intelligent cherry-picking by the Grizzlies gave them a LOT of easy transition baskets there at the end.
As far as analysis is concerned; the Spurs were clearly superior as a team, and pretty much superior at every position, at least so far. Memphis had out-rebounded S.A. by 5, and they had 13 offensive, but at least 4 of those offensive rebounds have been the fluky "the ball bounced off someone’s hands into Zach Randolph’s" type. And he’s got 13 rebounds, which is pretty much what we expected from him, right? He was also being held to 3-14 shooting.
Overall, we were killing them, minus the last 2-3 minutes of the half.
This is what Blair was thinking during the third: OMG WTF-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F. Lead is cut down to 4. We couldn’t get a stop. We couldn’t score. I don’t understand how this happened. Also, everyone is getting hurt, and I started sobbing uncontrollably.
Interesting sequence: loose ball, Gasol went on the floor to get it and Matt Bonner tied him up for what should have been a jump ball, but the refs (down to 2 due to injury), claim Randolph called a timeout. Bonner becomes visibly upset. Really, Matt, you think you’re going to win a jump ball? Maybe if you were Coach B, with his superior athleticism to rely on…but not you. Sorry. Getting them to waste a timeout in WHAT IS SOMEHOW A CLOSE GAME was probably better for us in the long run than losing a jump ball. Probably. Speaking of Bonner, we’re so horrible this quarter, Bonner nearly got a 3 stuck on the rim. Yikes.
Duncan just tied himself up with Hakeem for 10th place on the all time block list, which is cool and all but they were losing now. By 7. This is almost a 30 point swing. The a quick television timeout was followed by:
COACH B TO THE RESCUE! CORNER 3 (and he got fouled IMO).
AND ANOTHER ONE!
Apparently during the timeout, Bonner and Coach B (who, according to my sources in the Spurs organization, are one and the same) switched jerseys without anyone noticing. Then Manu made two great plays: long shot clock buzzer beating 2, and then drawing an off-ball charge. Did I say two? Make it three: drive going left, easy finger roll. Well, it probably wasn't easy, but he made it look easy, at least. While the Spurs couldn’t get the lead back, momentum had definitely swung going into the fourth quarter.
RAGE AND COACH B ARE UNBEATABLE! YOU CANNOT STOP THEM IN QUARTER NUMBER FOUR! I AM VERY EXCITED RIGHT NOW!
OMG COACH B HIT ANOTHER THREE TAAAAALLMMMMMBBBBOOOUUUUTTTT!!!!!! SPURS UP BY ONE!
Parker has a contusion and won’t return, so Quinn is getting some serious burn. Not good. When in doubt, give the ball to Duncan, and he shall deliver. Same goes for Manu. They combined to once again give us the lead. The game was close, but finally the good guys, behind Tim and Manu, pulled away at the end.
If I focus not on the fact that the Spurs were playing, and just looked at this as a basketball game between two random teams, this game was awesome. Lots of physicality, but both teams kept it clean and just played hard. I like games like that. I won't say "the refs let them play" because there were only two refs, and they could not see everything.
Manu coming alive and getting to the line in the fourth quarter. He did a great job attacking the basket, and also assisted some of the biggest baskets in the game (3 pointers from Rage and Coach B). I'd like him to shoot better from 3, but he done good tonight.
The Grizzlies rebounding. Playing against Zach Randolph. Mike Conley actually making jump shots. Itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie-slightly-nagging injur-eenies. If there is one thing that can derail the Spurs ability to get home court advantage throughout, it's half our team getting dinged up like a car in an Oklahoma hail-storm. We've got to stay healthy so Steve Novak and Chris Quinn don't have to carry us.
Also, i absolutely despise giving up 20 point leads. There was a 28 point swing. I'd be interested in knowing when the last time the score changed that much that fast in an NBA game. For some reason, I'm thinking it involved the Spurs, and that it's happened in the past couple seasons. Tonight gave a whole new meaning to RQC.
Our depth is our biggest strength, but when everyone is getting nicked up, we've got problems. Half our team, at some point tonight, needed to come off the floor due to an injury. Nobody can survive that, but hey, we did.
They only out rebounded us by one, but they did get seventeen offensive rebounds. That's insane. But it's also Zach Randolph- that is what he does. I know some of you are thinking "WE HAVE A REBOUNDING PROBLEM," but I disagree, even after tonight. People will say "We can't beat the elite teams giving up that many offensive rebounds!" And those people are right, we couldn't. But those elite teams don't get as many offensive rebounds. Only the Los Angeles Lakers are as good as Memphis, and in our super-dramatic last two-tenths of a second win against them, they actually had 12 offensive rebounds. In fact, if you compare those box scores, they look pretty similar. I'm not saying I'm happy with how many boards we're giving up, and if there is one area the Spurs need to improve in, it is crashing the glass. We've shown we can win against the best playing the way we play, though. If you're someone who says "the playoffs are different though", usually, you'd be right. But if you watched the LA game, and you watched this game, you know they had every ounce of intensity playoff games have.
So to those of you with wavering faith, those of you with doubts- I say believe. This is not the most talented team in the league. Not the most athletic, or the biggest, or the fastest. But this is the smartest team in the league, and, at least for right now, it is also still the best team in the league.
Did you know:
DeJuan Blair is tied for the league lead in steals per game with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard? Yeah, that's kind of cool.
That Greg Oden looks older than Antonio McDyess? This is completely irrelevant, but they showed him on TV while I was writing the recap and felt it worth mentioning. Too soon to guess that SAM has more games left in him than Oden? Maybe? No?
P.S. We need Tony back and healthy. The exact numbers aren't up yet, but to me it was obvious that he is the motor that stirs the Spurs drink, to quote the Chuckled One. Our offense died when he left. Hopefully the Wee Frenchman returns healthily on Tuesday.
I almost forgot to do this section.
Third Star: Manu Ginobili. I know, I know, you all think he deserves the first star. And that's an acceptable argument. But for 3 quarters, he really didn't play all that well. In the fourth, that definitely changed, but IMHO four quarters of excellent play>one quarter of near-perfect play.
Second Star: Matt Bonner/Richard Jefferson. Now I know all of you are thinking WTF. Neither of the two of these gentlemen alone would have been up this high, BUT they played average all game and then really turned it on at the start of the fourth. Plus, anytime Sean Elliott describes this dynamic duo as "Arsenic and Cyanide", and tells the other team to pick their poison, they have to win something, right?
First Star: Tim Duncan. 5 Blocks, 1 Steal, and baskets when we needed them most. He also was a perfect 6-6 from the line. Without his presence in the paint, we don't pull this one out. He's a big reason why the Grizzlies only shot 37.5% even with all those offensive rebounds.
Next up: A rematch in the battle of the boards against the Memphis Grizzlies. See you all on Tuesday.