With their length, speed, shooters and defense, the Memphis Grizzlies are a tough match-up for the Spurs. That has been undeniable all season, and even though they were missing Ja Morant last night, they have developed a similar plug-and-play reputation as the championship Spurs when it comes to missing their star, using their depth to keep winning and go a whopping 19-2 without their star this season. (And don’t worry, Grizzlies fans, if any fanbase can assure that “no, that doesn’t mean your team is better without him,” it’s the Spurs.)
Even without Morant, the Grizzlies appeared well on their way to comfortably besting the Spurs for the fourth time this season, building an 18-point third quarter lead, but the Spurs have a star guard of their own, and Dejounte Murray had himself a night for the second game in a row, tying his career high from two nights ago with 33 points and hitting a career-best 6 three-pointers on nine attempts.
Along with his 13 rebounds, he joined some elite company, becoming only the second Spur since 1985 to grab 12+ rebounds while hitting six threes. The other? Manu Ginobili. If Murray can truly add the three to his repertoire next season and become a 35+ percent shooter, he could easily be a top 5 guard in the league.
With Murray’s help, the Spurs had a much better night from beyond the arc than they did in Houston (where they also became the first team in NBA history to win a game when hitting 7 or fewer threes while their opponent hit 20 or more — this team is just beautifully strange), and it all started with Keldon Johnson hitting the first of 14 threes on the night for San Antonio.
KJ gets things started with a triple pic.twitter.com/I2aEAggB2X— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 31, 2022
If there was one play the Grizzlies appeared vulnerable to all night, it was the back door cut, and KJ exposed it early on his way to a 23-point night, while Vassell got two of them during Spurs’ second-half comeback when the Grizzles, in a couple of rare defensive mistakes, paid too much attention to the centers at the top of the key without watching the roll man.
Zach Collins is looking better each night as he works his way back into form, and he showed good discipline on this play to patiently wait for Jaren Jackson Jr, who was a defensive nuisance all night, to bite on the pump fake before putting the ball away for a much easier two points.
Finally, while it didn’t go in, the Gregg Popovich showed he still has it with the wonderful play he drew up for the game-winning attempt: a slip screen where Johnson appears to be setting the screen for Josh Richardson but cuts to the rim instead. He just barely missed, but maybe that was just payback for previous game when Kenyon Martin Jr’s three that would have sent it to OT rolled around the rim and out. Some go in, some don’t.
Wow, this play could very well help determine the play-ins in the West. Unbelievable after-timeout play from Pop. Heartbreaking miss for the Spurs. pic.twitter.com/8xvyGPBim1— Positive Residual (@presidual) March 31, 2022
Full game highlights:
It’s always fun to see siblings in the NBA, and last night Tre and Tyus Jones came together to donate $10,000 to Thrive Well Cancer Foundation in honor of their late grandmother, Sally.
On behalf of Spurs Sports and Entertainment, @Tre3Jones and @1Tyus donated $10K to @ThrivewellSa, a local non-profit dedicated to finding a cure for cancer, in honor of their grandmother @SpursGive | @memgrizz pic.twitter.com/2CcVNykMrD— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 31, 2022
Tim Duncan may have competition for the worst ejection ever. Last night, Austin Rivers was eject for . . . not making contact with Lance Stephenson? (Oh yeah, he’s back!) Apparently Tony Brothers’ explanation was it was a “malicious act” (and of course Stephenson sold it to get the call in the first place), but that’s just ridiculous. A technical was the call, and as Rivers’ second of the game (the first coming after a little jawing match with Stevenson, go figure), he was out. The NBA will have to answer for this one.
Austin Rivers got ejected for THIS!!! One of the worst calls I've ever seen LMAOOOO pic.twitter.com/zvW0nScCET— Follow @FTB_VIDS (@FTB_VIDS) March 31, 2022