After losing their two games in Memphis this season, including just last Saturday, the Grizzlies entered the AT&T Center as the only West team the Spurs hadn’t beaten this season. The game went more like you would expect it to, with the Spurs holding the Grizzlies in check on defense while grinding their way to victory behind another excellent night from a revamped LaMarcus Aldridge.
Dewayne Dedmon got an open dunk on the first play af the game, but after a wide open Vince Carter three, Pop called timeout just 1:10 into the game. The Spurs responded with an 11-2 run and much more aggressive defense to take a 13-5 lead midway through the quarter. Aldridge again looked sharp, scoring six straight points on all different shots at one point. Marc Gasol got going a bit after Dedmon had to sit with two early fouls. Memphis tied things back up at 21 apiece, but the Spurs outscored them 6-1 in the final minute to take a 27-22 lead at the end of the quarter.
Manu Ginobili opened the second quarter with a three, and after Mike Conley got his team back within two, the Spurs went on an 13-0 run, including 6 points from Patty Mills and four from Tony Parker, to take a 45-30 lead with 6:07 left in the half. The Grizzlies got better for a little while after a timeout and got things within ten with just over two minutes left. The final minute was sloppy as both teams were in too much of a hurry. Pop earned a technical with 17 sec left after he wanted foul for Kawhi Leonard getting tripped in transition by Tony Allen (and probably in several other instances), and the Spurs led 51-42 at the half. Aldridge led all scorers with 11 points, and the Spurs had 16 assists to just three turnovers in the half.
Both teams came out aggressive to start the second half, and things even got a little chippy as the physicality picked up. Each team played hard defense, but the Spurs still led by eight, 63-55, midway through the quarter. The Spurs started having a little trouble on the boards and with turnovers as Memphis continued to chip into the lead, getting as close as three before Leonard got a lay-up just before the buzzer, and the Spurs led 74-69 heading into the final frame.
Memphis scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to tie things up before an 11-0 run, led by two David Lee lay-ups, got the Spurs back up to double digits, 85-74. The Grizzlies stopped double-teaming Leonard on defense, and he took advantage by abusing the smaller Allen in the midrange. A pretty 2-on-1 sequence between Parker and Mills off a Leonard steal led to a three-point play by Mills to get the lead back to double digits once again before Conley answered with one of his own. Memphis stayed in it mostly from the free throw line, getting as close as five before a Parker three with 26 sec left. Troy Daniels answered with a three of his own, but it was not enough as the Spurs went on to win 97-90.
- This was Aldridge’s fifth straight game as the Spurs leading scorer with 23 points on 10-16 shooting. It’s a good thing, because Leonard has looked tired on offense lately, a key sign being he’s leaving several FT’s and threes short.
- I laughed in the first quarter when Manu fouled Zach Randolph to prevent an easy lay-up, and Pau Gasol was ready to explode after he got a clean block, thinking the call was on him. Fortunately Manu was quick to tell Pau it was all good.
- At least two of Dedmon’s three first-half fouls were of the questionable variety. They can best be described as super-star calls for Marc, which is far from the treatment Pop felt Leonard was receiving when he got that technical.
- On Military Appreciation Night, it was awesome that the nation’s oldest living WWII veteran, Richard Overton, age 110, was there to help swear in new recruits at halftime. On this night, Manu and Vince were not the most impressive vets in the building.
- I just don’t like Tony Allen, probably in a similar way that a lot of people never liked Bruce Bowen. He’s a physical, pesky defender, is never a scorer except against the Spurs, and I’ll never forget his epic flop on Manu in the 2013 Western Conference Finals.
The Spurs record improves to 55-16. The Spurs return to the AT&T Center on Saturday to take on the other team who beat them during the Rodeo Road Trip: the directionless New York Knicks.