The Memphis Grizzlies traveled a little to the west to meet the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center on Wednesday night. Every game the Spurs (5-7) make it harder for doubts to swirl about their ability to perform against tough competitors. They were able to push Memphis (8-4) into overtime on a night where fans expected to see another lesson learned. San Antonio ultimately lost the battle to the Grizzlies by a final score of 122 – 124, but the journey was anything but predictable.
The beginning of this trek seemed like a repeat to their other encounters with more developed opponents this season. Shots were going down easily for the Grizzlies, while the engine needed some oil on the Spurs’ side. Jeremy Sochan broke the ice with a 23-foot three-pointer, yet it was still slow progression on the scoreboard. San Antonio’s defense in the second quarter is what still kept them in the running and able to produce the comeback they made in the second half.
San Antonio really benefited from the inclusion of two-way contract player Charles Bassey on the floor, in for the injured Zach Collins. He strengthened the defense and saved possessions for the Spurs. It didn’t hurt to have someone willing to hustle defensively, highlighted by when he closed on Desmond Bane to break up a layup with a clean block. Trialing much of the game, San Antonio was able to tie with Memphis twice before the end of the second quarter. That provided a foundation for a strong second half with only a seven-point deficit on their hands.
Unpredictable Fight from the San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio showed their competitive colors late in the game as they drew close to taking the contest from Memphis. The offense was comfortable with quick low passes to center Jakob Poeltl in the paint, providing him with more scoring opportunities on his way to 22 points. Josh Richardson and Tre Jones provided air support, showing relentlessness in shooting the three from all areas of beyond the arc. They accounted for four of the team’s 12 three-point buckets.
A missed pull-up jumper from Keldon Johnson as time expired kept the score at 112 on both ends, sending the young groups into overtime. This was the first time the starting five of Jones, Devin Vassell, Sochan, Johnson, and Poeltl had been in this pressure cooker situation.
San Antonio sent the Grizzlies’ Bane and Brandon Clarke to the foul line and committed couple of turnovers that allowed Memphis to take a 12-point lead in overtime. The Spurs, however, were able to reel the game back within their grasp. Down by just two, the winning shot was in Vassell’s hands with five seconds left on the clock. He couldn’t get the shot to drop though, and the Grizzlies to walk away with a challenging win.
Memphis Grizzlies Escape With a Win
Ja Morant and Bane performed in their normal realm of excellence. Morant, averaging more than 30 points a game, contributed 32 points to the win, the same as Bane. Bane also pulled down six rebounds and recorded an assist while Morant had five of each as well. This is the first duo in their franchise history to record 30+ points, 5+ rebounds, and 5+ assists. Head coach Taylor Jenkins said after the game that he was proud his guys found a way to win, commenting on how strong the chemistry and unselfishness was on the Spurs end. The fast pace movement and elevated ball sharing provided some problems for Memphis. They accepted the challenge and actually learned a few things from the match up against San Antonio.
Next Up For the San Antonio Spurs
Next up for San Antonio, the challenge will only keep getting harder as the Spurs face the former NBA champions, the Milwaukee Bucks (9-1). It is uncertain if the “Greek Freak”, Giannis Antetokounmpo, will place his sneakers on the hardwood in the Alamo City as he missed Wednesday’s contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder with knee soreness. Antetokounmpo is averaging 31 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists, and is arguably the most dominating defender this season so far.
With one loss, Milwaukee is the top team in the East, but they have their share of struggles. The Bucks’ three-point shooting average is resting at 35 percent, compared to the Spurs at 37 percent. This could be San Antonio’s saving grace. San Antonio has struggled at home where they are now 2-5.
Do you think the Spurs can remain competitive by utilizing the perimeter to their advantage?