In what seems like no time at all, the Memphis Grizzlies are right back at it in another pivotal game on their hopeful path to the playoffs. This time, their opponent is a familiar foe in the San Antonio Spurs. While the Spurs may not be who they once were, they still are a dangerous opponent due to their execution, and of course, POPS.
Thankfully, the start of this game was far more fluid than Friday, as the refs let the players play much more freely. The Spurs offense also found a good flow early, as the Spurs were able to find good consistent looks and took an early lead. However, while the Spurs were able to find their shots from the mid-range, the Grizzlies had more of an in and out approach. Memphis featured their strengths early, using production in the paint early to open up threes as the quarter progressed. Though the Spurs jumped out to a 25-19 lead, the Grizzlies found their way back to make the score 25-23.
Despite their early success finding good shots in the paint and at the rim, the Grizzlies began settling for shots over the final few minutes. The Grizzlies scored just one basket in the final 150 seconds of the quarter, and the Spurs countered with two threes, including a last second heave from Patty Mills. They extended their lead to six, 31-25. While the Grizzlies did find their expected success in the paint, the Spurs success from distance led to the early lead.
The Grizzlies got off to a great start in the second thanks to Grayson Allen and good defense.Allen converted two free throws and a three pointer to cut the Spurs lead to one, and Valanciunas claimed the lead soon after. Memphis’s second unit was getting off to a much better start than the first game. Over the next few minutes, it was the Spurs vs Valanciunas. Though the Memphis big man found some success, the Spurs continued making shots, especially off offensive rebounds. Following another open lane layup for the Spurs, they stayed ahead by four at the eight minute mark in the second quarter.
Dillon Brooks produced four quick points out of the time out to tie the score. Both teams would find little success over the next three minutes, as the Spurs out scored the Grizzlies 4-2. The Grizzlies defense started to slow the flow of the Spurs offense, but also continued to settle for too many outside shots on offense. Another excellent connection between Morant and Brandon Clarke tied the game at 45 with just over four minutes left. Unfortunately, Memphis experienced early foul trouble and the Spurs quickly reclaimed the lead with free throws and a good look from three. Though the Spurs only had five offensive rebounds, that was three more than Memphis, and San Antonio appeared to have an advantage when it came to breaks going their way.
The Spurs continued to take advantage of the Grizzlies early fouls, and after Rudy Gay was fouled on a three point attempt, the Spurs jumped ahead 57-49. Despite another missed three pointer, the Grizzlies defense achieved some needed success. A forced shot clock violation followed by a jump ball led to an and-1 conversion by Dillon Brooks. After an exchange of free throws, the game reached halftime with the Grizzlies behind by five points.
Though Memphis was finding success through their strengths, dominating the paint and producing more assists, a tough stretch from beyond the arc and being out rebounded by the Spurs 29-21 allowed San Antonio to maintain the lead. Jonas Valanciunas leading all scorers with 11 points was a good development; Dillon Brooks attempting 13 shots was not. The Spurs success from deep, coupled with Memphis’s lack of consistency getting the ball in the paint, were big factors in the score of the game. Furthermore, for the second straight game, the Grizzlies bench was being outproduced by its opposition.
The Spurs jumped out to an early 7-2 run to begin the second half, increasing their lead to ten. However, baskets from Brooks, Morant, and Jackson Jr. cut the lead to four points with over eight minutes left to go in the quarter. The Spurs were quick to answer, as they had done all game, with a tough three point make by Derrick White. The Grizzlies also were running into more foul trouble on both sides of the court. Over the next five minutes, the Grizzlies and Spurs continued to swap baskets, as the Grizzlies spread out the opportunities. Memphis was continuing to find success in the paint; however, this time it was through passing and off-ball movement.
Grayson Allen knocked down a needed three, and the Grizzlies forced a turnover and called a timeout down 77-74 with just over two minutes left in the third. Unfortunately, Memphis could not capitalize, as more turnovers and missed jumpers allowed the Spurs to go on an 8-2 run to end the third quarter and enter the fourth with a nine point lead. The Spurs simply ended the quarter with far more energy and assertiveness, as they were able to take back control of the game.
Both teams played evenly through the first three minutes of the fourth, as the Spurs continued to keep a comfortable lead. The Spurs continued to convert good looks from mid-range, and while Memphis was keeping pace, several close looks were simply not falling. However, though the Spurs increased their lead to eleven, Memphis was able to generate a quick 6-0 run through Brooks, Allen, and Morant to make the score 94-89 with just under six minutes left.
The Grizzlies looked to keep the momentum, as a Jackson Jr. made an emphatic dunk and Allen appeared to tie the game with a three. However, a foul on the floor from the Spurs kept the shot from counting, and they then answered with an 8-3 run of their own to extend the lead back to eight with three minutes left in the game.
Fortunately, the Grizzlies were once again quick to counter, as two quick layups by Morant and a three pointer from Jackson Jr. cut the lead to one before DeMar DeRozan made a layup to make the score 104-101 with a minute left. A foul by the Spurs seemed to result in two free throws for Clarke, but instead made the call on the floor. A questionable Grizzlies turnover was countered with a tough made shot from DeRozan. However, Morant was able to once again answer with a quick layup to keep the Spurs lead at three with 17.6 seconds left.
After several stoppages in play, the Spurs got the ball to DeRozan, who was then fouled by Clarke. DeRozan would miss both free throws, allowing Memphis to take a timeout with the chance to draw up a shot at tying the game and getting it to overtime. Jaren Jackson Jr. did exactly that, tying the game with 10 seconds left. However, that was plenty of time for DeRozan to draw a foul on a shot attempt with one second left, and made both free throws. The Grizzlies were able to get an open look from deep for the win, but Jackson Jr.’s effort was simply too strong. The Spurs beat the Grizzlies 108-106.
Once again, despite being down for much of the game, Memphis roared back with emphasis and energy, only to come up just short. The Spurs, like the Trailblazers on Friday, simply made their shots when it counted. A big difference in the game was five more made threes and nine more made free throws for the Grizzlies.
In the end, Memphis had its chances and made the most of its opportunities to have a chance to win. They simply could not get enough stops or shots to drop in the end. Though the first two games have not gone as hoped, the Grizzlies are continuing to adapt to their setting and should breakthrough for a much needed win soon.