For a game taking place on the first of December, it sure felt a lot like the first of May and that had nothing to do with the warm weather in San Antonio.
“It was definitely playoff intensity,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said after scoring 30 points in a game that went to overtime against the team with the NBA’s best record.
It took an extra period, but the San Antonio Spurs rallied back from a terrible third quarter to end the Memphis Grizzlies’ four-game winning streak with a 99-95 win.
The story was Parker and Duncan all night, two of the four players Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sent home prior to their road game against the Heat which resulted in a hotly debate $250,000 fine from the NBA.
A quarter of a million dollars may be a big price to pay, but there’s no questioning the fresh legs of Parker, Duncan and Manu Ginobili entering overtime contributed to the Spurs win.
Tony Parker darted into the lane and knocked down consecutive jumpers, while Duncan made his only field goal attempt and made both of his free throws in overtime to give the Spurs the largest lead of the game and their only points of the extra period.
Just as Parker and Duncan finished the game strong, they got started early too. Parker had nine first quarter points while Duncan had six points and five rebounds with the Spurs trailing by one point at the end of the first.
Duncan stayed hot in the second half, scoring 15 points in 15 minutes and finishing the half with 21 points and eight rebounds, something that comes as no surprise to Duncan’s coach.
“He did what he’s been doing the whole season and all of last year. He’s the ultimate competitor,” Popovich said after picking up his 14th win of the season. “He’s the ultimate pro. He brings it every night and that was just another example.”
Grizzlies center Marc Gasol likely agrees with Pop’s sentiment, calling Duncan a “handful” after the game.
“He’s a really good player who has a lot of different moves. He’s playing really good,” Gasol added. “He knows how to adjust the game to himself and the team does a great job playing him at the right spot at the right time.”
Unfortunately for the Spurs, the third quarter wasn’t the right time for anyone until Popovich made substitutions late in the quarter that started to narrow a 15-point Grizzlies lead.
While the Spurs couldn’t buy a three in the first half, they shot 40 percent from the field in the first half, only to see that number deflate when the Spurs made just five of 19 third quarter shot attempts.
“I had an awful third quarter. I think we all did,” Duncan said. “We got some subs in there that were able to pick us up and get some energy back into the building and make some shots for us.”
The fourth quarter saw the Spurs go all the way from 13 points down to a tie that forced overtime. Their 58.8 percent shooting from the field in the fourth was a far cry from the third quarter and the Spurs used all the momentum they built up going on that run to put away a Grizzlies team coach Lionel Hollins said was playing on fumes.
“They went with their bench in the fourth quarter and we just ran out of gas. We did not execute the way we normally do,” Hollins said. “It got physical out there. We were tired and they were fresh. As a result they ran with the game and won.”
Parker led all teams in scoring with 30 points, while Duncan finished with 27 points and 15 rebounds. Gasol led the Grizzlies with 20 points. Mike Conley added 18 points and 12 assists.
The Spurs now have three days of rest before hosting the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night,