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San Antonio vs. Memphis, Final Score: Spurs edge Grizzlies, 108-106

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The youth movement continues in earnest and Spurs vault to ninth after the win.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies
The short-handed Spurs frontline helped fend off the Grizzlies
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs followed their recent blueprint for success, led again by young wings, Dejounte Murray (21 points and 10 rebounds) and Derrick White (16 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds), with late game heroics from DeMar DeRozan (14 points and 7 rebounds). Ja Morant paced Memphis with 25 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, while Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks chipped in 21 and 18 points respectively.

Observations

  • The Spurs’ offensive balance was apparent in the opening minutes: a Murray jumper, free throws by Walker IV, a DeRozan fadeaway, a White pull-up jumper, and a Jakob Poeltl bunny at the rim. Not often you get to see every starter score after just five made baskets.
  • Patty Mills knocked down his first three from the left corner in his first bubble action.
  • Sequence of the night: Late in the third quarter, Murray converted a difficult high-arcing jumper in traffic, which was followed by Keldon Johnson’s acrobatic save of a loose ball in the backcourt, and concluded with Keldon’s putback layup to make it 85-74.
  • My humble attempt at a nickname for Derrick White: “Cover Charge.” As in “he covers the other team’s best players AND he takes charge(s)!” And White is the costly flat fee opponents must pay in order to take on San Antonio.
  • Is it too early for a player comparison for Keldon Johnson less than ten games into his career? Perhaps! One that does comes to mind is the Philadelphia version of Andre Iguodala - a stellar defender and a capable finisher. On a sequence late in the first half, a Spur was unable to find Johnson streaking down the right wing. Instead of giving up on the possession, Johnson stayed at the front of the rim and White found him easily for a lay-up.
  • Memphis rolled out a beefy frontline of Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas, and Jackson Jr. to moderate success. Morant found easy going in the paint for his own shot and setting up his shooters, while San Antonio executed the pick-and-roll often with DeRozan, Murray, and White. Mills guided a buzzer-beating three missile at the quarter buzzer to put San Antonio up by six.
  • Memphis mounted a 7-0 run on hot shooting by Grayson Allen and Valanciunas to start the second period. San Antonio took advantage of second-chance opportunities to recover its lead. Poeltl picked up his third foul midway through the quarter, while the Spurs drew Memphis into the penalty as well. Drew Eubanks turned away two shots on contests in the lane and at the three-point line. The Spurs weathered a late run by Brooks to maintain a 59-54 lead at the break.
  • White found Walker IV for a monster lob dunk that San Antonio used to run for Kawhi Leonard out of timeouts. Walker IV returned the favor shortly to White for an open three. The Spurs’ double digit advantage was short-lived after Poeltl picked up his fourth foul. Both teams slogged through a sloppy handful of minutes before Brandon Clarke and Eubanks exchanged emphatic dunks. Despite Poeltl’s absence throughout much of the period, San Antonio escaped up by nine.
  • Valanciunas took advantage of a foul-riddled Poeltl early in the fourth, but Murray found comfortable footing in the midrange to push the lead back to 11. Morant, Brooks, and Allen found easy lanes to the rim after Poeltl left with his fifth foul to keep things close for Memphis. The Grizzlies blitzed the cold shooting Spurs reserves on an 9-0 run. Veterans Rudy Gay and DeRozan put San Antonio up 99-92. Poeltl was ushered off with his sixth foul and Morant responded with two layups of his own.
  • In the electrifying final 90 seconds, White staved off a Grizzlies fast break with - you guessed it - a charge drawn on Brooks. Jackson Jr. pulled Memphis to within one on a corner three. DeRozan converted a balletic driving layup to make it 104-101. The referees mistakenly put the Spurs in the penalty before overruling themselves. Gay then forced a turnover on Morant. DeRozan nailed a clutch baseline fadeaway to make it 106-101 before Morant scored immediately at the other end. The Spurs encountered difficulty with inbounding the ball safely and DeRozan missed two free throws. Jackson Jr. miraculously nailed a desperation heave over the outstretched hands of Gay to tie the game. DeRozan was fouled again and hit both free throws for the final margin of victory. Jackson Jr. missed a straightaway three at the buzzer.
  • The Grizzlies blue road uniforms are a beautiful thing to behold.
  • Memphis forward Anthony Tolliver started with the Spurs in 2008 and has since played on nine other teams. The term ‘journeyman’ in the dictionary should have Tolliver’s and Chucky Brown’s photos beside it.
  • Celebrity virtual fan sightings around the NBA today: our very own Manu Ginobili(!), the Coyote, Paul Pierce, and Dirk Nowitzki.

Other games affecting the Spurs’ bubble seeding: The Celtics’ 128-124 win over the Trail Blazers (30-38) puts Portland back into 10th place for the time being. Kings (27-37) vs. Magic at 5:00 PM CT and Mavericks vs. Suns (27-39) at 8:00 PM CT.

For the Grizzlies fan’s perspective, please head over to Grizzly Bear Blues.

The Spurs’ playoff gauntlet resumes tomorrow evening at 7:00 PM CT against Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and the Philadelphia 76ers.