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.”