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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Grizzlies

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San Antonio struggle led to impress on the second night of a back to back

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs fell 129-112 to the Memphis Grizzlies on the SEGABABA. The Spurs hosted the Grizzlies who were playing their first game since January 18th due to the leagues health and safety protocols. One may have thought that not playing a competitive game of basketball in 12 days in the middle of a season would cause a team to have some rust but Memphis shattered that theory as they started red hot, scoring 35 points in the opening frame. From then on the Spurs struggled to get close as every big shot or run the Spurs would make the Grizzlies were there to match. The home team were able to get it to within 5 with just over 6 minutes to play in the 4th before Memphis once again went on a quick 8-0 run to push the lead back over double digits and finish the Spurs off once and for all.

The Spurs drop to 11-9 for the season after the first 20 games. After the three straight wins which catapulted the Silver and Black to 4th in the West, this loss drops the Spurs 4 places into a tie for 8th. San Antonio’s home record also drops again below .500 as they now sit 5-6 at the AT&T Center. This is drastically different from their road record in which the team is 6-3. This was obviously not a great performance but at least Derrick White is finally healthy.

Observations

  • Now to the aforementioned Derrick White. Welcome Back! Derrick played in just his second game of the season and first since the start of the new year when the Spurs lost to the Lakers and White injured the same toe he had just recovered from. This was a much better game from the 4th year player, in his first game back on January the 1st, White had only 9 points. Today he doubled that for a team high 18 points along with 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals. Also it looks like Derrick has carried his 3pt shooting form from the bubble back in August to this season. Derrick hit half of his six 3pt attempts which led the Spurs in made threes for the game.
  • Rebounding woes: The Grizzlies destroyed the Spurs for most of the night on the boards and even though the final numbers don’t look bad (Grizzlies 45 Rbs – Spurs 38 Rbs) when Gorgui Dieng is grabbing 4 offensive boards and 7 in total while bringing in 15 points, you know there is a problem. Memphis looked more aggressive all night and it showed in the final score. The Spurs can use the back to back as an excuse for the lack of intensity in rebounding and defense but if they don’t show much more fight on Monday in the rematch they could be in for a long night.
  • Keldon Johnson played only 20 minutes. I’m not sure about this one, I know Keldon had some turnover issues in the game (3 in total) but he was always one of San Antonio’s most aggressive players on both ends of the floor. He had 12 points and 5 rebounds in his limited playing time so I’m not sure what the reason is he didn’t play his usual 30+ minutes. It could be the return of Derrick and therefore Pop figuring out the new rotation but there were a number of things to scratch your head over. Devin Vassell played just under 10 minutes in the first half but in the second he was dropped out of the rotation in favor of Trey Lyles. Also DeMar who usually clocks the most minutes especially in the first half had the least amount of minutes then all four of the other starters (just 13/24 minutes). The rotations will be intriguing to watch as the season progresses.
  • The most gut wrenching play in basketball in my opinion is the 3pt shot your team gives up right after hitting one of their own. Tonight it seemed as if this play happened 99 times. The Spurs struggled in vain to stop the Grizzlies from the outside. Memphis shot 17/35 (48.6%) from three and when they needed a shot to stop a San Antonio run you better believe they hit it. There are numerous reasons why the Spurs’ 3pt defense was not there tonight, for one, playing in a back to back takes a lot out of a player’s legs and fatigue would have played a part in the Spurs not be able to recover and rotate to contest the three. A second reason is Ja Morant. His driving ability to the rim is practically unstoppable and it forced the San Antonio defense to collapse which left shooters open for Ja to find for the open shot. If San Antonio’s perimeter players can stop the penetration better, it will allow the Spurs to better defend the 3pt shot.