Weekend NBA action brings playoff picture into greater focus
Over the weekend, Indiana earned its first trip to the Eastern Conference final since 2004, while the Spurs schooled Memphis in Game 1 of their Western Conference final.
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San Antonio takes first game in impressive fashion.Skip to next paragraph
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Much of the early analysis of the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs’ Western Conference Series centered on Memphis’ No. 1 NBA defense versus San Antonio’s veteran-fueled, pummeling offense. In Sunday night’s game at San Antonio’s AT&T Center, the Grizzlies’ typical grinding game wilted in the face of an overwhelming San Antonio offensive barrage – led by Tony Parker’s 20 points – as the Spurs won Game 1 decisively, 105-83.
Memphis wasn’t really in this game from the very start. The Spurs scored on their first seven possessions en route to a massive 17-point first quarter advantage, wherein the Grizzlies didn’t have a single rebound for over 6 minutes. Particularly disappointing was the Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph, who after scoring 28 points in powering the Grizzlies to their first-ever final in the previous series with the Golden State Warriors, scored only 2 points on 1-8 shooting in this contest.
The Spurs, even as they continued to get good overall production from their starters, had some pleasant surprises from their bench, including 3-point specialist Matt Bonner, who had 4 trés for 12 points on the night, and Gary Neal, who added 11 with 5-of-8 shooting. In fact, San Antonio as a whole shot very effectively from the perimeter, hitting for 48% of its three-pointers and 53% of its field goals as a team. This was due in large part to San Antonio spreading the floor on offense, drawing in Memphis’ perimeter defense and kicking back out to the arc for monotonously open threes - Kawhi Leonard going 4-for-5, Matt Bonner 4-for-6 and Danny Green 3-for-6 from three-point land, which was enabled greatly by 28 Spurs assists, including Parker’s 9.
San Antonio’s big men, Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter, helped limit the Grizzlies’ Randolph and Marc Gasol to 17 total points and keep them out of their offensive rhythm all evening. Memphis guard Mike Conley added 14 points, but also made 4 turnovers – including a momentum-killing steal and score by Tony Parker in the first period. Quentin Pondexter had a very solid game off the bench with 17 points.
For the Spurs, Parker’s prolific scoring was complemented by Kawhi Leonard’s 18 points, while Danny Green added 16 – largely through his three-point prowess and 6 of 9 shooting overall. Memphis, for their part, hit only 5 of 12 threes, while San Antonio as a team shot an opportunistic 14 of 29. But when the game got tight in the later frames, the Spurs sent in the multi-faceted Manu Ginobili, who, like a whirling dervish, ignited scoring runs that got the Spurs out of reach – including an important 11-1 spree with three minutes left in the third quarter. His assists, lane drives and a well-timed three were crucial in helping make San Antonio’s eventual 14-plus point lead insurmountable.