Perhaps it was rust from the lockout. Maybe the players weren’t used to the new rotations. Either way, the Memphis Grizzlies looked more like the team that squeaked into playoffs last year rather than the squad that outmatched the Spurs in the first round.
Rudy Gay scored 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting, and three other Grizzlies finished in double figures, but it wasn’t enough as Memphis fell 95-82 on the road to San Antonio. A game which saw Memphis leading 22-14 after one quarter quickly turned into a dichotomy of a team struggling to adjust to each other and one that had been together for years.
The Spurs’ “Big Three” of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili combined for 49 points, including 24 form Ginobili alone, en route to the victory. Fueled by triples from Ginobili and Richard Jefferson, the Spurs reeled off a 9-0 run to cut the Grizzlies lead to 22-21 early into the second quarter. Teams traded buckets for most of the first half, and Memphis found itself with a 44-43 advantage heading into halftime.
Turnovers got the best of Memphis early in the second half as the Spurs took advantage of the Grizzlies’ miscues to stretch their lead to as many 68-49 after Ginobili used a behind-the-back pass to find rookie Kawhi Leonard for a corner triple with 3:29 to play. San Antonio used a 21-3 run while outscoring Memphis 29-14 in the third quarter alone and took a 72-56 lead going into the final quarter. Memphis finished with 25 turnovers in the contest.
Gay tried to keep Memphis in the game in the fourth quarter, driving the lane and cutting the lead to 82-72 with 6:27 to play on an authoritative dunk. Turnovers again proved too much for Memphis to overcome however, as the Spurs went on to close the game out 95-82.
Zach Randolph, who was the dominant player in Memphis’ first-round playoff victory over San Antonio last season, was limited to just 10 points and six rebounds in 28 minutes of play. Marc Gasol was effective in the first half, but finished with 13 potions and a meager six rebounds.
- Frontcourt: Memphis has to figure out how to utilize its frontcourt starters better. Randolph and Gasol have to combine for more than 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Grizzlies to have a successful season. San Antonio packed the paint and tried to force Memphis to beat it from the perimeter, something the Grizzlies were unsuccessful in doing.
- Bench play: Someone has to emerge as a prominent scorer off the bench. Hopefully, OJ Mayo simply had an off game and will fill into this role just as he did last year. For this game, no reserve player scored more than eight points and Mayo finished with only four points in 17 minutes.
- New Acquisitions: Newly acquired Dante Cunningham finished with eight points in 17 minutes off the bench, while Quincy Pondexter chipped in six points and five rebounds. Memphis will hope to get similar production from Pondexter as the season goes one.
- Where’s the Grit and Grind?: Tony Allen’s energy and toughness are important qualities, but he has to produce more if he’s going to start. He finished with just two points and four turnovers in 15 minutes.
Memphis returns to the Bluff City for its home opener on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Grizzlies will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (2-0) in a rematch of the 2011 NBA Western Conference Semifinals.
Preston McClellan covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. Follow him on Twitter @p_mcclellan.