Summing it up
It tends to be an ugly affair when the Spurs and Grizzlies match up. It was even more so in Wednesday’s season opener, with both teams struggling through stretches of incompetence. Their poor defense in the second half notwithstanding, the Spurs could feel pleased with their execution after shooting 52.6 percent, including 11 for 20 on 3-pointers, against one of the league’s toughest defensive teams.
Of greater concern was the condition of future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, who left little more than a minute into the second half with a chest contusion. It didn’t appear to be serious, but the Spurs won’t no for sure until his checkup on Thursday. And so it begins for the aging-but-deadly Spurs, who count Father Time as perhaps their greatest foe as they attempt to survive the marathon that is the regular season in pursuit of their fifth championship.
With no Spur scoring more than 14 points, or doing much in the peripheral statistics, there were no standout candidates. So how about a rare nod for the Land Walrus, AKA Boris Diaw, who came off the bench to score 12 of his 14 points in the second half? His unexpected output more than doubled last year’s average of 5.8 points per game, and helped make up for Duncan’s absence as the Spurs survived a spirited charge from Memphis in the second half.
The turning point
It never felt like the Spurs were in true danger of blowing their 21-point halftime lead. But, as Game 6 of last season’s Finals showed us, absolutely anything is possible. The lead shrank as low as five, and stood at six when Diaw converted a twisting reverse layup to kick-start an 11-2 run that put the Grizzlies down for good. Diaw and Kawhi Leonard had five points apiece during the surge, which gave the Spurs an 101-86 advantage with 1:59 remaining.
News, notes and observations
* Head coach Gregg Popovich on Duncan’s injury, which came as he defended a drive by Tony Allen: “He’ll get checked out (Thursday). He had spasms in his shoulder and his neck. It looks like his chest is bruised. He caught an elbow, so it kind of affected from his chest up through his neck at some time or another.”
* The Spurs improved to 16-1 in season-openers in the Tim Duncan era, while the Grizzlies dropped to 0-13 since moving to Memphis in 2001.
* Score round one of the backup point guard competition as a decisive victory for Patty Mills, who scored 10 of his 12 points, including all three 3-pointers, in the second quarter. Cory Joseph was the lone Spur who did not shed ff his warmups, while Nando De Colo was relegated to the first of what promises to be many nights on designer suit duty.
* It was a tale of two halves defensively for the Spurs. The first — 10-for-43 shooting and 27 points, including 2 for 18 and just seven points in the second quarter for Memphis. The second — 29 for 50 and a staggering 67 points, tying the Grizzlies’ highest single-half output from last season.
* Kawhi Leonard earned mixed results in the first game of his first season as a prospective focal point. The third-year small forward tied Diaw for team-high honors with 14 points, sinking several key baskets down the stretch while making 5 of 9 shot overall. He also committed four turnovers, however, with several resulting from reckless drives in his attempt to be more aggressive. The takeaway: Just as Rome was not built in a day, neither are young players seeking to expand their role on a veteran team that doesn’t believe in the concepts of touches or go-to players.
Summing it up