MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The San Antonio Spurs hardly looked like an aging team playing the second night of a back-to-back.
But the Memphis Grizzlies sure appeared to be a team still in a haze from a four-game road trip.
Matt Bonner scored 15 points, going 5 of 9 from outside the arc, and Tim Duncan added 14 points as San Antonio sent Memphis to its fourth straight loss with an 83-73 victory over the Grizzlies on Monday night.
The win was a nice rebound for the Spurs, who lost 101-100 in overtime at Dallas on Sunday night.
“We had a disappointing loss (Sunday), but fortunately enough, our bench played a lot of the minutes,” Duncan said. “So, we wanted to get off to a good start, came out with pretty good energy and got a little lead, and our defence sustained it throughout.”
That’s despite the Spurs earning a reputation of not playing well on consecutive nights.
“I guess that’s what everybody is saying,” Duncan said. “This season has been a tough one, and it’s going to be exhausting on everyone. After the loss last night, I was really disappointed, and I think a lot of us wanted to come in here and give a much better effort.”
Memphis couldn’t answer the effort, looking sluggish from the start, leading to poor shots, lackadaisical play and lethargic defence.
“Did you see effort out there?” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins responded in his postgame remarks. “That’s the problem. We’re not working. First effort, second effort, third effort — when we give effort, it’s just for a few seconds, and then we let up.”
Rookie Kawhi Leonard had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who snapped a two-game skid. Richard Jefferson scored 13 points, while Danny Green finished with 11 points.
Even though Parker managed only five points, he did hand out 12 assists, two less than the entire Grizzlies team.
O.J. Mayo led Memphis with 17 points, shooting 7 of 11. Mike Conley had 15 points for Memphis, and Marreese Speights scored 10, all in the first quarter.
But Memphis was held to 37 per cent shooting on the night, primarily because Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies’ two leading scorers, were a combined 3 of 18 from the field. Gay finished with one point, missing all seven of his shots. Gay was held scoreless in three games his rookie season, and had not gone without a field goal in a game since April 16, 2007, against the Spurs, also in his rookie season.
“I don’t think it was too much about what (the Spurs) did,” Gay said of his night. “It’s about me finding the spots to make shots. I will take responsibility for that.”
The Spurs built the lead to 17 points in the first half, and Memphis never got it under double-digits after halftime.
San Antonio outrebounded Memphis 46-37, including 14 offensive boards, and held a 32-28 advantage in the paint.
“That’s what we are going to have to bank on,” Duncan said of the energy and hustle. “We’re not going to score a bunch of points each night. Sometimes we’re not going to shoot the ball the way we need to. … One thing we can bring is that energy and rebounding and defensively be solid.”
It was the Spurs’ first trip to Memphis since the Grizzlies ousted them in the first round of last season’s playoffs. San Antonio had lost six straight on the road to Memphis, including last year’s post-season.
The Spurs had energy from the start, and Memphis looked out of sync. The Grizzlies were getting beaten on the boards and outhustled for loose balls. The Spurs were the aggressors on both ends of the floor.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the performance after Sunday’s loss at Dallas was “a hell of an effort to come back and play with the intensity they played with. It was really nice to see.”
San Antonio shot 5 of 10 from outside the arc in the first half as Bonner hit a trio of three-pointers. His nine points and eight by Leonard led the Spurs to a 45-35 lead at the break, but it took San Antonio going scoreless over the final 3:34 of the half for the Grizzlies to get that close.
Memphis didn’t start the second half much better. The Spurs extended the lead, but Tony Allen was able to put a bit of a charge into Memphis’ play with steals.
However, every time Memphis got close to pulling within double-digits, the Spurs would answer with a couple of baskets. A three-pointer by Bonner gave San Antonio a 64-47 lead, matching the Spurs’ largest at that point.
“Firing them up as always,” Bonner said of his shooting. “It’s all about the shooter’s mentality. You treat every shot independent of what happened to the last shot, whether it went in, it didn’t go in, whether you banked it in. It doesn’t matter. You are going to step in and fire.”
The lead would reach 20 when Gay received a technical arguing a no call. Parker’s free throw made it 67-47.
By the time the game reached the end of the third, San Antonio was still up 70-50.
Memphis cut into the lead opening the fourth with seven unanswered points, a streak stopped by yet another 3-pointer from Bonner, and Memphis never threatened the rest of the way.
Notes: The Spurs are in the midst of playing 16 of 21 games on the road, one of the toughest road stretches in franchise history. . Memphis was playing its first home game in 10 days. The Grizzlies were 1-3 on a West Coast swing. . The Grizzlies played their 16th game since all-star forward Zach Randolph went down with a torn right MCL. Memphis is now 9-7 without Randolph. . With two steals, Gay moved within two of tying Shane Battier for the career franchise lead in that category.