Revenge was minor but still apparent as the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in the opening game of the 2011-2012 NBA season with a 95-82 victory Monday evening at the AT&T Center to start the season 1-0.
The two players who were hurt for both sides in last season’s playoffs led both of their teams in scoring as Manu Ginobili led the game with 24 points, three steals, one block, and four assists while Rudy Gay led Memphis with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and two steals.
The first quarter was a tale of two stories as the Grizzlies looked to continue where they left off last season by shooting 50% from the field and center Marc Gasol was leading them in scoring with six points. The Spurs on the other hand looked like a team developing an entire new team. They shot 26% from the field while committing eight turnovers while all of their big men aside from Matt Bonner were in early foul trouble.
The Spurs were able to get their act together in the second quarter by coming out with a 16-4 run to start. Richard Jefferson took command as he led the charge with 10 points going into halftime. The Spurs also sustained improvement in the second quarter without Tim Duncan seeing the floor and by committing zero turnovers. The Grizzlies made an 11-0 surge late to take a 44-43 lead into halftime.
After the game, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich commented on the improved composure of his team, “I thought they executed much better than I expected,” said Popovich, “I thought they looked real sharp.”
The third quarter sparked some life into the Spurs as Ginobili took control and led the Spurs to a 16-0 run that lasted more than four minutes. Tiago Splitter and rookie Kawhi Leonard helped Ginobili in the surge. On one play, Ginobili threw a one-handed behind-the-back pass to Leonard who caught the ball and made the three pointer from the corner.
After the game, Leonard said, “He (has been) throwing some unique passes,” on Ginobili’s passing ability. Ginobili chuckled after the game, “he made me look good.”
The Grizzlies put together a late 7-0 run at the end of the third quarter to the cut the Spurs’ 19-point lead down 72-58 going into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter became the “Ginobili show” as Ginobili led the Spurs with 24 points by wreaking havoc on the offensive and defensive end. Gay tried to keep the Grizzlies in the game by himself but his misses either led to points on the other side for the Spurs or limited the Grizzlies’ frontline of Gasol and Randolph from touching the ball. By the time the buzzer rang, the Spurs left the floor with a 95-82 opening season victory.
The Spurs will be hosting the new-look Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday in their second game of the season that features a starting lineup of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan.
Young Backcourt Progression
- Second year guard James Anderson looks to fill the backup guard role left by George Hill after he was traded. Anderson came off the bench to score nine points, along with one steal while shooting 4-of-9 from the field in 21 minutes of action.
- Rookie Kawhi Leonard scored six points, grabbed six rebounds, had two steals, only committed one foul, and only committed one turnover in just 13 minutes of action. His shooting could use some improvement as he went 2-of-9 from the field, and 1-of-5 from three-point range. After the game, forward Richard Jefferson commented on what he told Leonard before the season, “I told him you better get comfortable in that corner three,” said Jefferson.
- Before the game, I asked coach Popovich if rookie Cory Joseph would see any time guarding Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo, he responded, “no.” Joseph did play just 1 minute but that was mostly due to the Spurs’ wide margin of victory with time winding down.
Analyzing the Win
- The Spurs had four players in double figures with Ginobili leading with 24 points, Parker scoring 15 points, Jefferson was efficient with 14 points, and Duncan finished with 10 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
- The Spurs’ defense was very active tonight in leading the Grizzlies to committing 24 turnovers. Leonard and Jefferson’s defense on Rudy Gay forced the scoring forward to only connect on eight of his team high 18 shots. After the game, Leonard commented on guarding Gay, “He’s a great player,” said Leonard, “I had fun guarding him.”
- Gay’s overproduction on offense may have been the reason Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph weren’t as effective as they were in last season’s playoffs. Randolph and Gasol combined for a total of just 14 shots. A healthy Gay could become an issue for the Grizzlies offense. After the game though, Gasol said turnovers were the primary reason the team lost.
- Tiago Splitter is now being used as the stable for the Spurs’ offense with the second unit. Though he scored just five points on 2-of-7 shooting, his defense was key in the Spurs win. Splitter grabbed eight rebounds along with two steals and two blocks. After the game, coach Popovich was impressed with Splitter, “He was real special tonight,” said Popovich, “Tiago did a good job. He deserves a lot of credit.”
- The lockout may have affected the shooting as the Spurs shot just 39.8% from the field (35-of-88) while the Grizzlies shot 46.6% from the field. The Spurs took 33 three pointers and only connected on 10 of them. Parker commented on the night’s shooting, “It’s tough for everybody,” said Parker, “but overall I thought our defense got us through tonight.”
With only 13 in the lineup the spurs must sign at least 2 pf/c. It was off night for randolph and gasol and splitter was lucky. All teams upgraded their lineup and the spurs should by adding at least 2 pf/c. TD is playing limited minutes and that leaves the interiior to splitter. Blair played short minutes because he is too short. The upcoming game with the clippers will expose splitter. Who will guard Griffin? What about Jordan? It's not late to comp[lete the lineup by signing 2m pf/c!
@rtesoro440 Blair played short minutes because he was in foul trouble, not because he was too short. give some credit to the team defense on Randolph and Gasol, which gave them a game not to remember. and there's no guarantee the Clippers will expose Splitter. we'll have to see what happens. regardless of what happens, yes, as we all already know, we'll need another big.
@rtesoro440 Completely agree. We need to sign some legit 7 footers. I'm assuming we will see Duncan on Griffin. I think you may give Jordan a little too much credit. The guy isn't worth what he is getting paid, Splitter can handle him as long as he continues to defend like he did against the Grizzlies. In all actuality the Grizzlies have a better frontline than the Clippers and Most of the league. I love Griffin and his highlight real material but Gasol is beast down low. Randolph is great too and is WAY better than Jordan. I'd chalk this win up to the Spurs not necessarily outplaying the Grizzlies but The Grizzlies not playing to their strengths properly. We had a great game and I loved what I saw out of the Spurs! I really hope they can continue to play this well. I thought it was odd Blair not getting minutes but like you said the guy is TOO short. He may get rebounds and stuff but against legit teams with REAL size he is a liability.
In all the spurs played a well rounded game. As usual manu showed the way. TD saw limited time so Splitter played long minutes. He rebounded and defended well.It will be hard to defeat them if he continues to play well. Blair is still "short" center. Leonard played beyond expectations. Jefferson proved all was wrong. Good work spurs!
the spurs defense still has some holes but it is quickly coming around. the interior defense is still weak as were the refs calls, like the offensive foul called on duncan who was not allowed to come down with the ball on one play. should have been a locking foul. all in all the more time splitter gets on the floor the better his defense should become. leonard was nice on defense and the combo of him and anderson looks like will make a good defensive combo. and for all the hate, and trade rumors, i have to say im pleased with RJ, being a pro out there and he played a good, comfortable game. if he keeps it up i think a lot of people will be eating crow.
@JohnAbney see I know this may sound crazy...but I kind of hope jefferson eventually gets on the bench, but still averages around his minutes or maybe a little less. This is why, in the 1st with the starters he was just kind of there, just like another body. Much like his role last year. But when he came in with the second unit he gave us a good spark and led a run and was more aggressive. Now idk the reason or anything but my theory is because he was the only true stable vet in that group which makes him have to be the leader. With that second group he's the leader, the aggressor and a stable player for the younger guys which is actually better than having a whole second unit of guys that look completely lost