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Spurs can’t overcome Morant’s 41 points in loss to Grizzlies

The Spurs never led at the end of any quarter on route to a 118-110 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

In a matchup NBA purest would have been waiting for, Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies outdueled Dejounte Murray’s San Antonio Spurs. The Grizzlies led for almost the whole game and the closet it got down the stretch was when the Spurs tied it up with a few minutes to play in the fourth quarter. But from that point on Memphis regained control and halted the Spurs comeback attempt for an eight-point victory.

The Spurs started the game moving the ball on offense well which created a number of open looks from three out of it, some of which they converted. The Grizzlies though were crashing the offensive glass and were getting a number of second chance points out of it, something which became a theme throughout the game. The visiting team were pressuring the rim with pace which caused San Antonio to collapse into the paint which gave up open looks from the outside. The home team were starting to get carless on both ends of the floor as Memphis raced out to a double-digit lead. The Silver & Black did get two threes in the last minute which cut the lead to nine by quarters end.

To start the second, the Grizzlies were exploiting the Spurs on mismatches with Jock Landale suffering the brunt of it. Pop for a short time then turned to a 2-3 zone but this allowed Memphis to crash the boards even more without having a body in front of them. San Antonio were not able to get into the paint with ease and therefore were relying on outside shots. Fortunately, Keldon had it going in this half as he hit back to back triples which were his third and fourth of the first two quarters. Devin Vassell made a huge impact in this game, but especially in this period. He played with pace and urgency while hitting a number of shots. He even helped force a few turnovers with some great team defense which kick-started an 8-0 run to bring the Spurs within three points at the half.

Both teams traded buckets to begin the third before Memphis started to tighten up defensively which forced the Spurs into low percentage shots. On the other end, San Antonio couldn’t do the same with the Grizzlies getting baskets at an efficient rate. Ja Morant had a quiet 15 points in the first-half (as described by Sean Elliot), but in the second he was determined to make some noise. He was taking over the game with just his presence alone. The level of attention the home team defense was giving him was creating havoc all around. The Spurs did just enough to hang in the game heading into the fourth quarter down just eight; 94-86.

The final quarter started chaotically but the Spurs were able to find a few points within those sequences and the margin was 5 very shortly after. Jock Landale got the backup big role in this game, but in the fourth quarter, Pop turned to Drew Eubanks to bring a spark, and did he ever. Drew made an instant impact on both ends of the floor, he made a few shots while getting after it on the boards and had a few tough contests against Ja Morant, one in which he blocked. At this point, the home team were well and truly in it, and after a few vintage Dejounte Murray mid-range jumpers, the game was tied. But this is when it all fell apart for the Spurs. Offensive rebounds came back to bite them again, as Memphis made sure to take advantage of every second chance opportunity by getting points out of them. Ja who had upped his scoring in the second half was then was able to draw three straight foul calls as he iced the game from the free throw line. San Antonio never stopped fighting in this 118-110 loss to the Grizzlies.

Game Notes

  • JA & JJJ. Simply put, Morant and Jackson Jr were just too good for the Spurs in this game. Ja on the offensive end and JJJ on the defensive end. Morant was able to get to wherever he wanted to on the court and was seemingly able to get a foul call whenever Memphis needed one. Jaren Jackson Jr had 6 blocks in the game and disrupted many more with his presence in the paint. This duo is going to be a problem for a long time in the NBA.
  • Untimely Rebounds & Turnovers. If you just look at the pure numbers it doesn’t look too bad for the Spurs, tied with 13 turnovers each and Memphis only had 5 more rebounds on the game. But if you watched you would have noticed that in the big moments the Spurs came up small, while Memphis came up big. Spurs had careless turnovers when they needed a bucket and when they played good defense late, they wouldn’t be able to secure the possession as they would give up an offensive rebound. Most notably when the game was tied at 106 apiece and JJJ hit a three off a tapped out offensive rebound.
  • A Bit of History. Dejounte Murray secured his 14th career triple-double which ties David Robinson for most in Spurs history. This was also his 10th of the season, which has him second in the league, one off first place, Nikola Jokic.

Play of the Game

I spoke earlier about Devin’s great second quarter and this two-way play was the epitome of his play.

Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)

3rd place (1 point): Dejounte Murray | 39 mins, 16 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, 2 steals

Dejounte did not shoot the ball very well against the Grizzlies, in fact he shot it poorly and that definitely cost him a first or second place in the SVP rankings, but like always Murray found a way to be effective in the game. He play-made well for others, was crashing the boards and played the best defense on Morant compared to the rest of the Spurs who were given a shot.

2nd place (2 points): Jakob Poeltl | 33 mins, 18 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blks, 2 stls

Jakob’s strong run of play continued in this game. He is becoming a real threat offensively and his scoring and efficiency is at an all-time high. But as it has always been with Poeltl it all starts with his defense. Four blocks and two steals with numerous other defensive deflections and contests.

1st place (3 points): Devin Vassell | 30 mins, 20 points, 4 rebounds, 8/16 from the field

As good as Poeltl was, and as effective as Murray always is, the best player on the floor for the Spurs in this one was, Devin Vassell. He didn’t just have an awesome second quarter; he was legitimately good all game. He shot the ball from the field well and a lot of those were tough mid-range shots off the bounce. He is always giving maximum effort and is the ultimate team player.

Overall Leaderboard

1st - Dejounte Murray - 79pts

2nd - Derrick White & Jakob Poeltl - 46pts each

3rd - Devin Vassell - 32pts

4th - Keldon Johnson - 27pts

5th - Lonnie Walker IV - 17pts

6th - Bryn Forbes - 12pts

7th - Doug McDermott - 11pts

8th - Thaddeus Young - 9pts

9th - Keita Bates-Diop - 5pts

10th - Jock Landale - 4pts

11th - Josh Primo - 3pts

12th - Drew Eubanks - 2pts

13th - Tre Jones - 1pt

Next Game: Vs Chicago on Friday

The Spurs get a day off before the Chicago Bulls come to town where they will meet old friend, DeMar DeRozan, for the first time since he departed last summer.