It seemed to take forever, but the playoffs are finally here. For the last month of the season, the Spurs looked like a team that wasn't quite focused as they slogged through a series of meaningless games and killed time as they waited for the season to end. After nearly a month of lackadaisacal play, they didn't seem ready for the playoffs, and the first ten minutes of tonight's game seemed to confirm that assessment as the teams slugged it out and struggled to score.
But then the Spurs, like Austin Powers in 'The Spy Who Shagged Me', found their mojo, and began to execute like the machine they are reputed to be. Kawhi Leonard, who opened the game with one of his patented steals leading to a breakaway layup, led the team as they started to reassemble over the rest of the game as their execution became sharper as the game progressed. Tony Parker, who had been in standby mode for most of the season, powered up fully and showed that he can still drive to the basket and score inside.
The Grizzlies stars played well, with great efforts from Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and Lance Stephenson, but their depleted roster didn't have enough players to compete with the Spurs machine when it was hitting on all cylinders. The Spurs end of the bench players, led by Boban Marjanovic closed out the game for the Spurs and even Martin got in the act hitting a couple of three point shots in garbage time. The Spurs won going away 106-74
The game started out with a patented Kawhi Leonard steal and breakaway layup for the good guys to put the Spurs up 2-0, but Vince Carter answered with a three-point shot to put the Grizzlie up 3-2, but Leonard quickly answered with a three of his own. Grit and Grind began to take hold, and the paint started to look like the mosh pit at a Bad Brains concert. Tony Parker tried to crowd surf towards the basket on a few drives, but except for that one time where he got a free run in transition, he wasn't able to get off clean shots. Both teams had trouble scoring, but somehow the Spurs were able to grind out a 12-7 lead with 4:50 left, but the Grizzlies weren't done fighting. They went on a mini-run of their own to close to one point. But then the Silver and Black went on a little run to close out the quarter 10-2 behind improved defense and a few timely scoring from Patty Mills, David West, and LaMarcus Aldridge to end the first stanza up 22-13.
The second quarter freed up the offense for both teams. Unfortunately for the Spurs, Lance Stephenson, the league's most instinctual player, got insanely hot and the Grizzlies hit 7 shots in a row to cut the Spurs lead to just two points at 37-35 with 3:20 left. It could have been even closer, but Kawhi did his part on defense to steal the ball twice in a row, leading to two easy baskets earlier in the quarter for the good guys, leading to a technical foul on Memphis coach Dave Joerger. On the next possession after the Grizzlies closed to within a basket, LaMarcus Aldridge used his size to dominate inside and get an easy basket. As they had in the first quarter, the Spurs stepped up the defense towards the end of the quarter and closed it out 11-2 with LaMarcus doing damage on both ends of the court, blocking Zach Randolph's shot and making his own. Tony Parker did his part and made a magnificent spin move to get past Lance to make a deceptively easy layup. The Spurs went into the locker room 48-37, up 11.
The third quarter started with a pair of stellar defensive plays from Kawhi Leonard, as he blocked a Matt Barnes shot and stole a pass from Jordan Farmar. You would have thought he could hear him coming. But Vince Carter still can hit three point shots when he gets any kind of opening to shoot them, and that led to an early timeout from Pop with the Spurs up 53-40. Out of the timeout, the Spurs offense stagnated, but Kawhi bailed them out with a buzzer beater with Matt Barnes in his face. Both teams traded baskets, with Farmar hitting an unexpected three. Parker continued to drive towards the basket powering the Spurs to a 61-45 lead with 7:24 left.
Kawhi got open in the corner and hit a three to extend the lead to 66-49. The Spurs continued to pour it on,with a chase down block on Randolph by LaMarcus leading to another twisting layup by Parker and another Kawhi three-point shot. Zach Randolph, who played the first 10 minutes of the third quarter, began to tire from the banging with David West and the Spurs. When he left the game, Boris Diaw found enough room in the paint to score, and the Spurs began to stretch the lead.
Once again, the Spurs closed out the quarter on a run, and they led 81-51 at the end of three quarter. Despite the scrappy beginning, this game was slipping away from the Grizzlies.
Boban Marjanovic came into the game with 9:30 left and the Spurs up by 30 and had an instant impact on the game. Mills got hot from beyond the arc, and they continued to extend the lead over the now hapless Memphis ursine animals. Kevin Martin and Jonathon Simmons got some time and played hard and the Spurs poured it on to the end, winning 106-74.
- Tony Parker was aggressive attacking the paint, and despite starting slowly, it started to pay dividends as he began to get separation and get open looks for his teammates.
- The Spurs outscored the Grizzlies in all four quarters, but most importantly, closed out the quarters on strong runs to put them away. The team's execution started a little sloppy but got better as the game wore on. You might even think this was some sort of plan. The Spurs have won every playoff game where they have outscored their opponent this year.
- Danny Green didn't attempt a shot in the first half. But he was aces on defense. He hit a three early in the third quarter, so maybe he's a D and 3 player.
- Tim Duncan looked as good as he has all season. Maybe he was just saving himself for the games that matter.
- Lance Stephenson, who had been one of the best players for the Grizzlies in the first half, didn't play the first 10 minutes of the third quarter.
- Kyle Anderson didn't enter the game until late in the third quarter, but had a positive impact, making defensive plays and rebounding on both ends.
- Kevin Martin played his best game as a Spur, hitting three point shots when he was open, which is what the Spurs got him for.
Tonight I take you all the way back to 1972. Before there was a Silver-and-Black machine, there was a Silver Machine. And look closely, you may recognize the lead guitarist in this band.
Game 2 will be on Tuesday night at 8:30 PM in the AT&T Center, and the game will be televised on TNT. It's pretty important that the Spurs keep their focus and don't let the Grizzlies steal a game on the road, because that could turn this into a long series. It looks like the Thunder will make short work of the Mavericks (still not ponies), so it's imperative that the Spurs take care of business early in their first round series and don't give the Grizzlies hope. This Grizzlies squad is a hungry team with a lot of heart, and the Spurs can't take for granted that they'll win this series easily, because if they do, it'll bite them in the ass.