With seconds ticking away before the halftime buzzer would sound, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard would take and make a 3-pointer, to send the Spurs into the half leading 54-38 over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies. Leonard would miss just one shot in the second half, as he tied his career high with 26 points on 12-of-13 shooting from the floor, in a Spurs 112-92 rout of the Grizzlies.
After sitting out Thursday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Manu Ginobili returned to the floor with a quiet 26 points (8-of-11 shooting) in 25:34 minutes. Tim Duncan put 13 points on the scoreboard and before being injured with back spasms, Tony Parker had already scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting in 9:19 minutes. Here were some keys to the Spurs’ 60th win of the season.
Leonard’s hot hand
Whether it was Tony Allen, Courtney Lee, or James Johnson defending him, the Grizzlies could not find an answer to slow down Leonard. What’s even more impressive about where Leonard scored his 26 points from, was the shot locations. Take a look at his shot chart on the night. Only three of Leonard’s made baskets came inside of the paint area, the rest were mainly jumpers.
Leonard was throwing jab steps, spins into jumpers, and even launching from the outside on his way to the 26 points. Whether his shots were contested (6-of-7) or uncontested (6-of-6), Leonard had the hot hand throughout the night. The Spurs, even made it a point to go through him as he received the fourth most touches (41) on the team. Leonard also grabbed three rebounds and threw five assists.
Since returning from injury, the Spurs are 20-1 with Leonard back on the floor. Leonard’s averaging 14.7 points, shooting 54% from the floor, 47% from three, grabbing 6.2 rebounds, throwing 2.2 assists, collecting 1.9 steals, and blocking 1.3 shots since returning from injury.
Ginobili’s quiet 26 points
Most of Ginobili’s damage against the Grizzlies came from two key areas – beyond the arc, and inside the paint with his drives. Ginobili looked like his legs were back under him as he was getting his three point shots off quite quickly when left open with a minimal amount of time, and he continuously attacked the rim off pick-and-roll action. As you can see by his shot chart, Ginobili knocked down 4 of his 6 three pointers on the evening. The rest of the team made 5 three pointers and missed 16. Most of Ginobili’s made shots were contested, but he still prevailed in making 7-of-9 of those contested looks.
Limiting ‘Zbo’ and Gasol
Coming in from their last 10 games, both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were the number one and three leading scorers for the Grizzlies. After 48 minutes of being defended by Duncan, Tiago Splitter, and Boris Diaw, the duo finished with just 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting combined. The Spurs’ front court deserves credit alone for limiting the Grizzlies tandem to no more than nine attempts at max in the game. The Spurs’ frontcourt contested all but three of Randolph and Gasol’s looks on the night.
5 Regular Season Games left
With five regular season games remaining, the Spurs are holding onto the best record in the NBA at 60-17, and San Antonio has a 4 game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder (55-20) in the Western Conference. The Thunder are currently in play with the Phoenix Suns as of 9:01 PM CST, so the Spurs’ lead will change if the Thunder either win or lose. With the win against the Grizzlies, the Spurs also clinched home court against the Eastern Conference, if they were to make it to the NBA Finals.
Where San Antonio Stands
- Regular Season: 60-17 (Lead the NBA)
- Home Record: 31-8
- Vs. Opponents with +.500 records: 29-15
- Vs. The Western Conference: 36-11
- Post All-Star Break Record: 22-2
- Of the Spurs’ 60 wins, 35 have been by double-figures.
(All Stats and Player Tracking data via NBA.com)