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Game Preview: Memphis Grizzlies vs. San Antonio Spurs

It’s Tony Parker Jersey Retirement Night, with the Spurs playing host to the Memphis Grizzlies for the pre-ceremony entertainment.

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images

The Spurs laid a massive egg Saturday afternoon against the Celtics, giving up a season-worst 135 points. Gregg Popovich was extremely disappointed in the effort shown by his squad, as evidenced by his interview with reporters following the 20-point drubbing:

It’s never a good thing when a coach mentions noticing an un-physical effort (read: soft) from his team. As a fan, you have to hope that the team was embarrassed by their effort on the defensive end of the court, where they allowed the Celtics to shoot over 50% from the field and wallop them for 60 paints in the point.

With Tony Parker’s jersey going up to the rafters tonight, Pop will hope that his message has gotten through to his team and that they show out against a Memphis Grizzlies team that, save for a bright spot in rookie Ja Morant, has played poorly through the first 9 games of the season. The Spurs can’t afford to drop games that they should win this early in the season and for the sake of Tony Parker Jersey Retirement Night, this should hopefully be another W in the win column.

Memphis Grizzlies (2-7) vs San Antonio Spurs (5-4)

November 11, 2019 | 6:30 PM CT

Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: None

Grizzlies Injuries: Grayson Allen (OUT), Ja Morant (Rested — PROBABLE), Brandon Clarke (back - DAY-TO-DAY)

Ja Morant and Pop’s progressive resting plan

In Ja Morant, the Grizzlies seem to have found their lead guard of the future. The rookie out of Murray State has been a revelation for a Grizzlies team that blew up its long-time core last season when it traded away both Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Morant is currently averaging 18.9 points per game on a 49/46/75 line. He’s shown some flashes of high-level playmaking and has even had a few highlight plays, including this putback dunk against the Rockets:

Morant has played fantastic in his first career games, but he’s also been at the center of a new strategy concocted by Memphis. Because the Grizzlies have their rookies on a minutes-restriction to start the season, Morant has played 30 or more minutes just a single time through the first 8 games his young NBA career. Per David Cobb of Memphis Commercial Appeal, head coach Taylor Jenkins explained the thought process behind such a strategy following a loss to the Suns last Saturday:

”For lack of a better phrase, we kind of want to put some money in the bank moving forward with him . . . I’ve always been a big believer, you start playing in the mid-30s (minutes per game) you kind of wear down . . . Our rookies, including him, have never played 82 games in a season.”

“Load Management” has been a hot-button topic this season and it’s interesting to look at how the NBA has gotten to this point of looking out for their players and Pop’s place in all of it. He’s a pioneer, famously giving his older vets, stars and role players alike, games off here and there as they reached their 30s in an effort to help preserve them for customary playoff runs. It took some time, but the rest of the league has caught on (even if there has been some pushback by a few famous star players recently) and is trying to do all it can to take care of their players.

That, maybe even more than the 5 championships, 1250 wins and 3 Coach of the Year awards, will be his legacy.

A better effort in the paint is needed, on BOTH ends.

In their loss to the Celtics the Spurs were walloped inside, giving up 60 points in the paint. It can be argued that this is where San Antonio lost the game, as they went 15/45 and scored just 30 of their own 115 points in the paint area, a dismal 26% of total points for a team that usually averages 39.7% of their points there.

Shot Charts from loss to the Celtics

The Spurs can not be outshot 63% to 33% once again if they hope to avoid what would be viewed as the most embarrassing loss of the early season. That means better awareness on the defensive end of the court and a conscious decision to get into the paint and finish strongly.

The Spurs need LaMarcus Aldridge to be better

After a game in which he dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder to the tune of 39 points, LaMarcus Aldridge turned in yet another stinker. It was his 3rd game already this season in which he failed to score at least 10 points (for comparison’s sake, Aldridge had just 5 such games all of last season). As though the scoring wasn’t enough, he also allowed Celtics’ players to go 5/6 on him when he defended the rim.

The defense has been a team-wide issue, but it’s on Aldridge to demand more touches and shots with his aggression. There is no reason he should be completely shut out of a game, he’s too good for that. The Spurs still managed to put up 115 points with Aldridge playing so poorly, but they need him engaged and playing well on both ends of the court to find consistent success going forward.

Vegas odds: Spurs by 10.5

For the Grizzlies fans’ perspective, visit Grizzly Bear Blues.

It’s Tony Parker Jersey Retirement Night! Tony MUST dominate Fisher.

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.