The Spurs traveled to Memphis tonight to take on the Grizzlies, who were warming up after a cold start following their Conference Finals appearance. The Grizz came into tonight having won four straight, the last two on the road over the Clippers and the Warriors. The Spurs came in flaunting an eight game win streak. This looked to be a tough test against a team we have seen and battled so many times over the last three seasons. I had concern that the Spurs would come out unable to match the intensity of a hot, physical opponent after playing a slew of cupcakes over the past week or so. This hypothesis was incorrect.
The Spurs came out ready to play, and the defense against the Memphis bigs was very good in the first, allowing just 2-7 combined from the field from Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Tiago Splitter continued his absolutely stifling interior defense.
The bench unit is pure pleasure to watch, and they contributed 24 points in the first half. Bili MiNelli killed it in the second quarter with a combination of Mills' annoying defense (two steals), Marco's ability to make the right play (two assists), and an amazing array of Ginobili dimes (four). Seriously, any one of Ginobili's passes would have been a career highlight for most players in the league. He was so mind-blowing in his ability to execute impossible passes that Hubie Brown could only muster up a, "oh..Oh...OH!" after one.
Forgive these low-quality gifs, rest assured, it is only temporary:
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That's a 30 foot bounce pass- no big deal.
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Beauty to Belli.
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Bounce pass? 20-ft? Please...
By halftime the Spurs had built a 14 point lead. The offense hummed, and the defense was as solid as it's been all season. The good guys shot 57% (and had 14 assists on 23 buckets) while holding the Grizz to 42%.
The Grizz came out strong in the third, even missing Gasol, and with four minutes left they tied the game, fighting their way to a 14-2 run. Memphis' defense bothered Tony Parker in the quarter with double teams and the team as a whole played an aggressive style of defense the Spurs were unable to solve for most of the quarter. Manu, perhaps sensing his team needed a spark, had back-to-back drives to the rim for the Spurs' first points in a couple minutes, but the game remained tied. The bench unit again came in and finished the quarter strong, to the dismay of those in attendance, and the Spurs were up by six heading into the final 12 minutes.
While building the small lead Bellinelli knocked down a couple of nice jumpers, Mills continued to pester, and BoBo continued to look like a different guy. Le Croissant made a ridiculous reverse layup that demonstrated the body control of someone 30-pounds lighter. Diaw appeared to tweak his back on the play as he fell to the ground, causing Max Kellerman to say, "He's grabbing...let's call it his obliques." I'm not sure if he was unsure of where Boris was hurting, or it was a jab at the cushy layer of love that he was actually grabbing. Either way, The Land Walrus is playing really great basketball. Whatever Boris is eating, I hope he continues to have seconds.
The fourth quarter was mostly a tight battle by both sides, with neither defense willing to budge. The Spurs put the Grizz in the bonus with nine minutes left, and the Spurs joined them at the midway point. There was a particularly nice possession where TP worked Conley in the post, showing great patience throughout the seven seconds he worked down low, and found the bottom of the net on a sweet layup. It wasn't a lack of effort on Conley's part, he played great defense, but Tony was just too good.
For his part, Conley was outstanding as well, and it seemed like every time the Spurs tried to pull away, Conley was knocking down what has become a really pretty floater. That dude can ball. On a night where the rest of his team was struggling, at least offensively, his play both ways kept Memphis in the game almost until the end. He finished with 28 points on 63% shooting, including 2-3 from downtown, and had four steals. He's really developed into a very good player. He's upped his nice production from last season, to a career-high 18.8 ppg (before tonight, it might hit 20 after) on over 50% shooting. In addition, he is one of the best defensive PGs in the league.
In the end, the Spurs, led by Baguette Parker, proved to be too much for Memphis without their reigning DPOY. The Spurs played excellent defense, knocked down their shots, and closed out the game on a 13-3 run.
Sadly, Marc Gasol sprained his knee in the second and was unable to return. Hopefully, the Grizz's defensive anchor can make a speedy recovery.
Kosta Koufas looks like a great pickup by Memphis' FO, though he wasn't exactly great tonight. He's probably a starting center for about half of the league, and the Grizz have the luxury of having him come off the bench.
Tony Allen, after serving a one game suspension for this, put up 12 points (4-9), had a steal, a block, and four assists. I don't get why he got a game suspension; Tony Allen is a God-Fearing man and let's be real- C(I'm a dirty-playing, no-good flopper)P3 probably deserved a shin to the grill.
I can't say enough about the bench. Watching them play has become my favorite part of these early games. As the new guy, Belinelli so far is playing to the level most of us hoped he would - by the PLAYOFFS. I'll scratch yours if you scratch mine. Brilliant pickup by PATFO.
Tim Duncan. Fine. I'll admit it. He's struggling offensively. His D is still elite, and the team is winning. I'll leave it at that.
Tony "I'll break your spirit" Parker continues his late-game mastery. Nothing to see here, just boring excellence. If TP keeps this up, he may enter Big Fun territory-boring the public with his consistent excellence.
Tiago Splitter may have stolen Timmeh's offensive mojo. The big-man from Brazil is playing at a level that makes his contract almost seem like a steal. He even found a way to look good in the box-score tonight. 17-7 in 26 minutes on 70% shooting. He did miss another bunny, but it wouldn't seem right if he went a game and didn't.
Everyone but Danny could be commended, but I'll leave some for the rehash.
The good guys are off to their best start in franchise history at 11-1, and they haven't even played anywhere near their ceiling for 48. The potential of this roster is as high as it gets in the league. The rest of the season should be a blast.
The Spurs will travel back to the Alamo City tonight, and get right back to it as the Cavs visit tomorrow night.
For the opponents perspective visit our friends at Grizzly Bear Blues.
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- Reviewing the Spurs' first 10 games of the season