The last time the Spurs met the Memphis Grizzlies was on Tony Parker Night, a 113-109 loss that somehow failed to impress its ugly feelings on the positive emotions that were at the center of what that night was all about. That game was as dead-even as a game could be, with the difference coming down to just 2 more made field goals on the Memphis side of things (44 to 42), with Jaren Jackson Jr. doing the bulk of the damage for the Grizzlies.
The Spurs have a smattering of what should be some easier games to close out the year, with the toughest game of their next 4 being against a Dallas team that is without Luka Doncic. If they can go on a little run here, their hopes of not only moving into the playoff picture, but most importantly, for some signs of consistency with their play become a little brighter.
San Antonio Spurs (11-17) at Memphis Grizzlies (11-19)
December 23, 2019: 7:30 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: None
Interior defense has been a big problem for the Spurs the last few games
Speaking to reporters following the loss to the Clippers, Gregg Popovich said that the Spurs lacked, “physicality,” which is a nice way of saying that they played soft:
Gregg Popovich on the loss the the Clippers pic.twitter.com/TQZ7L2li2f— Nicholas Ryan Talbot (@NicholasRTalbot) December 22, 2019
The game against the Clippers continued a recent trend of the Spurs’ interior defense falling completely apart. After Saturday’s game, the Spurs have given up point totals of 56, 52, and 74 in the paint over their last 3 games. Twenty of Los Angeles’ field goals in the paint were dunks, 8 in the third quarter alone:
I'm working on the full video and article about tonight's game, but here's all 20 dunks by the Los Angeles Clippers against the San Antonio Spurs from this evening. It'll only take you about ~90 seconds to get through it all. pic.twitter.com/vcD1OJ4Osh— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) December 22, 2019
San Antonio gave up 48 points to Memphis the first time they met this season. If they’re to give themselves a nice Christmas gift tonight, they will have to do a much better job of shutting off the paint and preventing the lay-up line that was on display Saturday night.
Can the Spurs limit mistakes and keep points off turnovers down?
Those 8 dunks in the 3rd quarter represented another problem that was near the top of the Pop’s worries: turnovers. Five of those 3rd quarter dunks were the direct result of turnovers. Overall, the Spurs gave up 36 points on 18 turnovers. Poor transition defense has been a theme all season long for San Antonio, and their failure to get back in time after coughing the ball up played a big part in the lay-up drill that was on display.
On Tony Parker Night, Memphis was able to turn 14 Spurs’ turnovers into 14 points, compared to just 5 points for the Spurs. In a 4 point loss that’s a big swing that could be avoided by making better decisions with the ball and displaying both a desire and sense of pride to get back
Ja Morant and the Grizzlies’ philosophy of keeping minutes down
Ja Morant has had an unbelievable start to his NBA career, all things considered. The 20 year old rookie is averaging 18 points a game on a 46/40/79 slash line to go along with nearly 7 dimes a game. He made headlines last Friday night when he tried to “end” Cavaliers forward Kevin Love’s career with a vicious almost-dunk:
JA MORANT tried to recreate Vince Carter’s Olympic Dunk with Kevin Love!! pic.twitter.com/MMkuwGgd1Y— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) December 21, 2019
The most impressive thing about Morant’s success is that he is doing all this in under 30 minutes a game. Head coach Taylor Jenkins has stressed the importance of easing his younger players into the new grind of an 82-game regular season, and for most of the season, he’s held true to that philosophy with none of Memphis’ best players seeing more than Morant’s 29 minutes a game.
Jae Crowder (31 MPG) remains the only player averaging at least 30 minutes a game for Memphis this season.
Vegas Line: Spurs by 1
For the Grizzlies fan’s perspective, you can visit GrizzlyBearBlues.
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 if you don’t have a radio around.