The San Antonio Spurs were out for revenge on Monday night. However, instead of getting revenge, the Spurs were even more thoroughly dominated by the Memphis Grizzlies. When the smoke cleared from the final killshot, the Grizzlies had annihilated the Spurs by a final score of 133-102.
What happened? First of all, give the Grizzlies credit. They played great on both ends. Offensively, they shared the ball masterfully and kept the Spurs in a constant state of desperate rotations. Defensively, they crowded driving lanes, packed the paint and basically kept the Spurs from doing what they wanted to do.
For San Antonio’s part in this obliteration, they were obviously not blameless. Defensively, they didn’t have the fight they exhibited against the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets or in other impressive wins as of late. Offensively, no one on the team was able to break down the Grizzlies defense with any sort of consistency.
Did the Spurs recent strong play cause them to get fat and happy? That’s conceivable, although now it should be clear that this team isn’t talented enough to win unless they play with a palpable amount of determination. Furthermore, while having Derrick White back is undoubtedly great news for the team going forward, there was bound to be some growing pains when trying to assimilate him back into the offense. In the Bubble, he was the team’s lead ball-handling — and it’s been a bumpy transition as the playmakers feel out how to divvy the playmaking duties.
The Spurs got within ten points with three minutes remaining in the third quarter. But they would get no closer, as the Grizzlies responded with a 28-11 run to put the game to bed.
The Spurs really struggled to find ways to get to the rim against the Grizzlies collapsing defense. On the other end, Memphis was creating passageways to the hoop every time up the court. The end result was the Spurs getting outscored in the paint 62-32.
Spurs vs. Grizzlies: Final Grades
Johnson was really the only player on the Spurs who brought the needed amount of energy. He scratched and clawed to get everything he could on offense. I love that he was launching threes with confidence once again. Defensively, he wasn’t nearly as good but, again, his energy was a bright spot.
I mean, DeRozan played a lot better than he did last game. His numbers look decent and he had a few strong drives and a number of quality passes. That said, DeRozan’s inability to orchestrate San Antonio’s attack was a big issue. Usually, if others aren’t able to create, he takes the baton and does the heavy lifting himself. Tonight, he was unable to do that.
With driving lanes jammed with bodies, Murray resorted to launching three-pointers. In the halfcourt setting, he was rarely able to create any sort of advantage for himself or others. Defensively, he once again got cooked repeatedly by Ja Morant. Morant is obviously a tough cover but Murray allowed him to get into the paint too easily and too consistently.
On one hand, Aldridge’s outside shooting was helpful, particularly early. He had a hot hand and his jumpers looked good. Sadly, though, his defense was so bad that he wasn’t playable. He’s too immobile these days to help out on the perimeter and his reaction speed is too slow to help out on the boards. That’s a bad, bad combination.
Lonnie Walker IV
Ugh. Walker was back to passing up three-point looks and shooting fadeaway and fadesideways layups. For him to be good, he needs to launch threes and go strong to the basket. He did the opposite of that this evening. Defensively, he lacked any sort of fiber and the Grizzlies scored around him with ease.
Mills came out of the gates brandishing a flamethrower. It looked like one of those games where he’d keep the Spurs in it by single-handedly sparking the bench unit. Unfortunately, after a fiery start, Mills cooled off and he joined the long list of Spurs players unable to find a sustainable rhythm.
White’s second game back didn’t go as smoothly as his first one did. His passing was good but he didn’t have the lift to finish consistently inside of the arc and he hit only 1-of-5 three-pointers. Defensively, he still has a ways to go before he’s in shape enough to play at his usual level.
The good: Poeltl defended the rim well. His switching and help on defense were almost always on time. He was felt on the offensive glass and he actually hit two free throws in the same game. The bad: As good as he was on defense, he ruined it at times by not boxing out or getting outhustled or outmuscled for rebounds. Other times, he overhelped and left the lane wide open. Offensively, he looked to exploit mismatches early on but forgot about doing that as the game progressed.
Gay was aggressive — but he did more good than bad. He broke plays too freely and his decision-making was spotty at best. Add in sloppy ball-handling and slow motion defense and it’s safe to say that Gay didn’t have a positive impact on this game.
Vassell didn’t really move the needle. He was part of the rotation in the first half but basically just blended into the background. In the second half, he didn’t enter the game until it was garbage time.
It was nice to see Lyles remembered that scoring is something that’s good to do when you’re playing basketball.
Eubanks was rumbling, bumbling and stumbling with extra vigor in garbage time.
Bates-Diop is basically billed as the poor man’s Kyle Anderson — and we got a glimpse at the stark difference of what the economically privileged can afford.
Weatherspoon was the point guard in garbage time. He had a couple good passes and a couple unsightly turnovers.
The good: Riding Johnson extra long in the second half was warranted. Going away from Aldridge was the right call. I agreed with his decision to try Gay at center. I agreed with his decision to try a nine-man rotation in the second half. The bad: The Spurs knew what the Grizzlies were going to do and didn’t have an answer on either end. It’s not all Pop’s fault but it’s safe to say he was outcoached in these two games. I never saw a coherent plan emerge of how the Spurs wanted to attack Memphis’ collapsing defense. On the other end, Pop never found a button he could push to stop the bleeding.
Welp, that was a disappointing pair of games. The Spurs don’t have any time to feel sorry for themselves because the Minnesota Timberwolves come to town on Wednesday and San Antonio needs to win that game to avoid what would otherwise likely become a full-blown tailspin.