The San Antonio Spurs competed for 48 grueling minutes and emerged victorious after a heated battle against the Memphis Grizzlies. At several points in the contest, it looked as if the Spurs were on the verge of breaking the game open, but Memphis always had an answer. In the end, the Spurs won with a composed and confident style - a rare occurrence for the Spurs on the road this year.
It seems like our young team is finally growing up. They are beginning to blossom, and at just the right time. In the first stop on the Rodeo Road Trip, it was great to see the Spurs play a difficult game on the road and come away with the victory.
Here are 10 reasons the Spurs should have lost:
- Memphis hit two three point buzzer-beaters; one at the end of both the 2nd and 3rd quarters.
- Tony, while playing a spectacular first half, was held to a very mortal second half as Memphis got away with a lot of physical play.
- The Spurs watched the Grizzlies stay within striking distance by connecting on 18 of their 21 free throw attempts.
- The Spurs were outscored to close the third quarter, 25 to 7. They watched as their hard-earned 13 point lead devolved into a 6 point deficit to begin the fourth quarter.
- With 3:15 remaining and the Spurs up by 3, Tim took a charge that was deemed a block; Green came flying in and goal-tended the ball giving the Grizzlies a chance to tie the game.
- With 1:12 remaining and a 6 point lead, Mike Conley banked in a three pointer to cut the lead to 3.
- With 49 seconds on the clock, Tim had the ball ripped from his grasp. After an official review, the ball was given to Memphis. The ball was last touched by Tim because Cunningham missed the ball; he only made contact with Tim's arms, so the ball hit Tim last. It was a foul, but by rule, Memphis ball.
- The very next play, with the Spurs leading by 3, Tim secured a defensive rebound and his elbow landed on Rudy Gay's shoulder. This was somehow ruled as an offensive foul.
- Next play, Tim recovered defensively to pin Marc Gasol's dunk attempt on the backboard. The jump ball is not called and Gary Neal ties him up; Gasol wins the jump ball with 22 seconds remaining.
- Next play, Conley drives and attempts to pass the ball to Gasol. Kawhi breaks up the play leading to yet another official review. It looked to me as if Gasol clearly knocked the ball out of bounds, but again, Memphis is awarded the ball. The Grizzlies end up missing the tying three pointer and Danny Green ices the game with two clutch free throws.
I'm not complaining, (no, really. I'm not.) I'm just pointing out that there were ten reasons the Spurs could have packed it up and accepted a loss. The ball, the officials, and luck were all working against the Spurs. This is a game that the Spurs would have lost a month ago. During the 25-7 run, I was having flashbacks of that terrible second half of the Spurs loss to the Miami Heat. The difference this time? Composure and confidence. It's something the Spurs have been greatly missing on the road this season.
Where did this new-found, inspired play come from? You can look back to the Mavericks game in which the Spurs second unit nearly took out the defending champs without any help from the starters. You can look at the steady improvement that Gary Neal, Danny "Big" Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Tiago Splitter have shown. You can look at the incredible play of our Big Two, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan.
And so, I ask, was Life Without Manu a blessing? It forced the team to rally around the parts that were available. The team was faced with an ultimatum, delivered by injuries and the ruthless schedule. They are answering the call. The panic button was not pushed. The team played through the adversity that any good road game will bring and overcame it all. Life Without Manu has been trying, but it seems that it's been more than worth it.
And now, with LWM finally coming to an end, the Spurs are poised to challenge for the best record in the West. The team is playing as one, both offensively and defensively. They have learned how to battle on the road. They have learned how to survive without a point guard. They have learned how to win, and now the Spurs are about to be reunited with their best player. If you were writing a script for a championship season, you couldn't do much better than how the 2012 season has played out thus far.
Your Three Stars
3.) Tiago Splitter: 14 Points on 6 of 7 shooting, 6 Rebounds, 1 Assist and 1 Steal in 20 Minutes.
Tiago was a glue guy tonight. He held the team together in very critical moments. He found the open spot when his teammates drove the lane, he played great help defense, and he was a man on the boards. He is playing like the guy we all thought he was capable of being last year.
2.) Tony Parker: 21 Points, 7 Assists, 3 Steals and 1 Rebound in 37 Minutes.
After a 42 point, 9 assist performance against the league-leading Thunder, Tony began this game where he left off two nights ago. In the second half, Memphis' defense wisely focused on keeping the little Frenchman out of the paint. Tony took what the defense offered and ran the offense, rather than being the offense. Even though it was a relatively quiet game for Tony, he gave exactly what the Spurs needed to win.
1.) Tim Duncan: 19 Points, 17 Rebounds, 5 Blocks, 3 Assists, and 2 Steals in 32 Minutes.
He's spectacular. Ever since Pop forced him to take the night off in that Houston loss, Tim has played with an edge. 19 points and 17 rebounds for the "old" man? It's time to relabel Tim. He has looked anything but old in the last 10 games. I have one wish. Can we get this guy 38 minutes of playing time? With 6 extra minutes, this 19 and 17 game turns into a 25 and 22 game in a hurry. I know, I know; priorities and all that. We're robbing him of an All-Star bid, you do realize this, don't you? Fine, limit his minutes and focus on the team. We'll just keep his All-Star-worthy play a secret in San Antonio. He'll continue to catch teams by surprise and the Ws will keep coming our way. Deal? Deal.