With the Spurs playing a tough opponent for the second night in a row – it was the Heat last night – Gregg Popovich wasn’t taking any chances. That’s why Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were out of the lineup tonight, when the Grizzlies played the Spurs at Fed Ex Forum. Of course, the Spurs are notoriously good at adjusting to lineup changes, especially when Pop decides to rest a few of the star players. That’s why it wasn’t a surprise that the Spurs still managed to make life extremely difficult for the Grizzlies in tonight’s game, having the lead most of the way. It would take a fourth quarter comeback for the Grizzlies to emerge triumphant, which they did by a final of 92-90.
Mike Conley was the leading scorer for Memphis tonight, chipping with 23 points on 11-17 from the field. He struggled a bit on the passing front, having just two assists compared to four turnovers, but his excellent shooting performance was more than enough to make up for that. Conley also had to deal with Tony Parker, the only member of the Spurs’ Big 3 who saw any action tonight. Parker was quite active tonight, putting in 25 points on 9-19 from the field in 33 minutes of play.
With Duncan and Ginobili being rested, while Kawhi Leonard was out with a sore left knee, some significant changes were made to the Spurs starting five. Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter made up the front court, while Stephen Jackson replaced Leonard as the starting small forward. Jackson had a solid night, with 12 points and seven rebounds. Jackson is a talented to player for fits well into the Spurs system, and could likely start for many NBA teams. Meanwhile, Splitter had an excellent night, shooting 6-8 from the field, and putting up 13 points and 11 rebounds. Splitter has really come into his own this year, and will be a huge asset for the Spurs in the playoffs.
For the Grizzlies, it was just another day at the office for Marc Gasol, who had 16 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. How many times have we said that this season? Gasol is one of the more reliable big men in the league, and tonight’s performance was yet another example of that.
Jerryd Bayless continues to look more and more like a 6th man, as he put in 17 points off the bench. Bayless was the only second unit player to do much of anything in tonight’s game, as no other bench player scored more than four points. The Grizzlies were able to squeak by with a win despite their underachieving bench tonight, but in the playoffs, players like Ed Davis, Darrell Arthur, and Quincy Pondexter are going to need to come through.
The Grizzlies can worry about that issue later, however. Tonight, they can take pride in getting a close win against the #1 seed in the West – even if they did rest two of their three best players. The Grizzlies next game will be on Wednesday night, when they’ll go on the road to face the Portland Trail Blazers, It’ll be yet another big game as the battle for home court advantage continues.