It may have lacked the physicality of a typical Grizzlies game over the course of the last decade, but the Spurs 104-91 preseason victory over Memphis’ new look squad had many of the other characteristics of their classic matchups. Two digit offensive ratings for both teams? Check. Field goal percentages that would freeze water? Almost. More fouls and turnovers than made shots? You bet.
After the first three scintillating minutes of game play, the teams had combined for a total of three points. Fortunately, the rest of the first quarter, at least for the Silver and Black, was much easier to watch as the Spurs’ offense hit a nice rhythm. Eighteen of their 31 first quarter points, in the first actual evidence of the team’s professed desire to take more threes this season, came from behind the arc.
Two of those three pointers were much different than the rest. DeMar DeRozan, who shot 15.6% from deep last season, nailed both of his catch and shoot looks in the 1st quarter on his way to a 3/3 night from downtown.
Whether it was part of the game plan or just what happens when you play a young team, the Spurs got up 31 three-point attempts, knocking down 14 of them in what was easily the difference in the game.
As would be expected in a game that was decided by the three ball, Patty Mills led the team in scoring with 16, followed closely by Bryn Forbes’ 14 points on 10 shooting possessions. DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge both also put up 14 points, although after finding it nearly impossible to miss on Wednesday night, the big fella struggled to find the bottom of the net in this contest.
The Spurs weren’t particularly good on defense for most of the night, giving up 48 points in the paint, and after the 1st quarter, they looked disjointed and off balance on offense for most of the game. They also missed 10 of their 28 free throws, which typically isn’t a good recipe for winning a game going away. But against this young Grizzlies team and with a 21 point advantage from deep, it was enough.
After Wednesday’s resounding victory over the star-studded Rockets, this game was a bit of a letdown. But it was the last game of the preseason with much more important contests starting in just 5 days. And now that the exhibitions are over, the Spurs and their fans can let out a deep sigh of relief. More important than the win or even DeMar’s sudden three point proficiency is that, unlike the last two years, the team will begin the regular season with a clean bill of health all the way down the roster.
- LaMarcus didn’t have a great night, needing 17 shots to get his 14 points, but it’s still very clear that he can bully smaller players, even when they have the length and bounce to theoretically defend him. He’s too big and too strong for young players like Jaren Jackson Jr. or Brandon Clarke to check by themselves without risking foul trouble. There was a short stretch in the middle of the 2nd quarter where he seemed intent on getting deep position, and he turned 3 possessions into 5 points by making a turnaround hook and sinking 3 of 4 free throws.
- Coach Gregg Popovich continued to give Trey Lyles an opportunity to earn rotation minutes. He started the game, but played only 15 minutes. After his solid showing in Houston, he appeared to be trying to do too much. Against the speed and length of the Grizzlies’ young defenders, he just didn’t have anywhere to go.
- Trey’s struggles present a bit of a problem, because the team looks to have committed to staggering LaMarcus and Jakob Poeltl, but also seems to still want a big at the 4 for most of the game. Chimezie Metu hasn’t shown enough to earn those minutes, so the Spurs took a look at some small ball lineups late in the game with DeMar at the 4. It’s too early to say how well that will work, but it definitely has potential.
- Marco Belinelli jumped back ahead of Lonnie Walker IV in the rotation, playing well but contributing to the team’s free throw woes on the night with a 1 of 4 performance from the line. Lonnie didn’t play until the 4th quarter, but he didn’t do anything to help put the controversy to bed. Instead, he did this:
- This Grizzlies squad is going to be fun to watch. They have length and athleticism almost everywhere with an exciting young point guard in Ja Morant. It’s unlikely they’ll make much noise with so much youth in a conference this deep, but they have an incredible stockpile of talent, so their return to prominence probably won’t take long. The Spurs will get another look at the refurbished Grizz on November 11th, when they’ll be back at the AT&T Center for a rematch.