The Spurs ended 2021 on a low note, beginning what will be a seven-game road trip with a 118-105 loss to their division-leading rivals, the Memphis Grizzlies. After overcoming some adversity in the first half to keep things close, the Spurs offense fizzled out in second as the Grizzlies dominated the paint and offensive glass.
Derrick White and Jakob Poeltl had 15 points apiece as the only two starters in double figures, and Bryn Forbes provided another 15 off the bench. Ja Morant had 30 points to pace six Grizzlies in double figures.
- I’m just happy to have a Spurs game tonight. After the postponement Wednesday’s game vs. the Heat and not getting the Gator Bowl this morning since Texas A&M had to back out due to a COVID outbreak, injuries, and draft declarations, I have been deprived of sports since Monday night, and what a drought that was. Being on vacation from work all week — which, don’t get me wrong, has been very nice — didn’t help with making the days go by any quicker.
- Gregg Popovich had to call a quick timeout just over two minutes into the game after the Grizzlies scored the first nine points, seven of which were off offensive rebounds. The Spurs instantly upped their aggression on both ends with a 13-2 run to briefly take the lead. Neither team played very good transition defense in the first quarter, but Memphis continued to abuse the offensive glass (10-3 advantage in second chance points) and dominate the paint (22-10 points in the paint) to take a 32-26 lead heading into the second quarter — and being behind by any capacity after one quarter has not been a good thing for the Spurs this season.
- White caught an elbow to the temple from his old teammate Kyle Anderson while drawing a charge early in the second quarter and briefly headed back to the locker room to close the gash. Of course, we all know Slo Mo is not a dirty player, but you just can’t drive with your elbows out and swinging, and it was reviewed and upgraded to a Flagrant 1. Pop then wisely called a timeout to give White more time come back out to take the free throws, otherwise he would not have been able to return to the game. He played a few more minutes before blood started penetrating his bandages, and he had to leave for the remainder of the half.
- Thaddeus Young sighting! After Jock Landale got thoroughly outplayed in his first quarter stint, Young got his first meaningful minutes in weeks in the second quarter, maybe with the hope he would help styme the Grizzlies’ offensive rebounding, but that wasn’t the case. Outside of a couple of rebounds and an assist, his main contribution was two immediate fouls. He again got the meaningful backup big minutes in the third quarter, but he remained rusty and mostly ineffective, finishing with just 2 points and 4 rebounds.
- The second quarter started slowly for both teams but sped up again as time went on. The Spurs went on a 10-3 run to retake the lead again, and it was back and forth from there as Morant got hot for 20 points in the half, while Bryn Forbes and Tre Jones filled in admirably for White with a combined 20 first-half points. The Grizzlies still led 63-61 at halftime, but considering their slow start and then losing their best available player for much of the second quarter (not to mention no Dejounte Murray for the game), it was a good overall showing by the Spurs.
- White returned to start the second half and had an immediate impact, forcing a 7-0 run by hitting a three on the Spurs’ first possession, finding Poeltl for the pop-a-shot on the second, drawing an offensive foul on Jaren Jackson Jr, and finding Keita Bates-Diop for an easy layup, forcing an early Grizzlies timeout. Unfortunately, they couldn’t sustain it for long, and the Grizzlies got going to get the lead up to 90-79 heading into the fourth quarter as the Spurs had one of their classic cold spells for much of the third.
- Desmond Bane hit a three to open the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies continued to push the lead to up to 18 while the Spurs offense had nothing going, and Pop emptied the bench with 8 minutes to go, knowing the Spurs have another (much more winnable) game tomorrow.
- It was a rough game for much of the Spurs’ main rotation beyond White and Poeltl. Keldon Johnson had an extremely rough shooting night with just 6 points on 2-12 shooting, 1-6 from three. (Hey, even the league’s best three-point shooting is allowed an off night). Lonnie Walker and Devin Vassell both had poor nights from the bench, combining for just 15 points on 6-18 shooting. After hitting 8-19 threes in the first half, the Spurs as a whole just shot 3-16 in the second and overall were outscored 72-48 in the paint.
- The battle of the Jones brothers was competitive, with Tre putting up a career-high 13 points on 5-6 shooting (including his only three!), and his older brother Tyus scored 18 on 7-14 for the Grizzlies. The main difference was most of Tre’s contributions came in the first half while filling in for White, while Tyus’ burst came in the second half as the Grizzlies pulled away.
- Happy New Years to all Pounders! May your 2022 be better than 2021 ... and 2020 ... and 2019 — you know what, we’ll be here forever doing this. Just have a happy and safe 2022!
For the Grizzlies fans’ perspective, visit Grizzly Bear Blues.
The Spurs will kick off the new year right off the bat, traveling to Detroit to take on the Pistons Saturday night for Game 2 of their seven-game road trip. Tipoff will be at 6:00 PM CT on CW35.