SAN ANTONIO – The Spurs earned their 60th victory of the season the hard way Tuesday night, beating the stubborn Memphis Grizzlies 95-89 in overtime at the AT&T Center.
The game was the third in 18 days between the teams and a preview of their likely first-round playoff matchup. If their series is anything like their fourth meeting of the season, it should be a compelling one.
If the NBA playoffs started Wednesday, the Spurs and Grizzlies would square off in the first round for the second year in a row. The Silver and Black swept an injury-depleted Memphis team last season.
The Spurs (60-17) have five regular-season games left and already have clinched at least the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Tuesday’s clash against the Grizzlies was the front end of a back-to-back for the Silver and Black, who host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
The Silver and Black reached the 60-win mark for the seventh time in franchise history. Only the Boston Celtics (13) and Los Angeles Lakers (11) have more 60-win seasons than the Spurs.
Memphis (42-36) is seventh in the West standings, trailing sixth-place Oklahoma City (44-33) by 2½ games and leading No. 8 Portland (38-40) by four. The Grizzlies have four games left, including a key matchup with OKC in Memphis on Wednesday, so there’s still a slight possibility the Spurs could play the Thunder in the first round if they slip in the last week of the season.
All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Spurs Tuesday night with 32 points and 12 rebounds. He scored 23 points in the second half, including 12 in the fourth quarter when he hit 4 of 7 shots and buried both of his 3-point attempts.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 15 points, including a basket on an alley-oop inbounds pass from Pau Gasol that forced OT with 1.5 seconds left in regulation. Gasol also had a double-double, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The first option on the key inbounds play was Leonard, but when the Grizzlies converged on him, they left Aldridge wide open. With Aldridge going to the basket, Gasol lobbed a perfect pass to him for the tying score.
"I had to look for Kawhi first coming off, and if he was open, obviously, I was going to hit him," Gasol said. "He attracts a lot of attention, as we all could see from that play. And then LaMarcus was wide open, so I had to put it over the top right where he could just lay it up. So it worked out well. I'm glad I could make the pass, execute it well, overtime, and win the game."
Patty Mills and Tony Parker rounded out the Spurs' double-figure scoring with 10 points. Mills said he thought the close game will help the Silver and Black in the playoffs.
"Being in the situations and being familiar with what we had to do in tight situations like that is always good," Mills said. "I think that's where we are at this point in the season with the games that we have left. We want to get better in all aspects of the game. It was good to get that matchup."
The Silver and Black were up 71-60 with 7:50 left in the fourth quarter after Aldridge and Leonard buried consecutive 3-pointers, but the stubborn Grizzlies hung tough..Memphis went on a 19-7 run to take a 79-78 lead on a 3-pointer by Troy Daniels with 1:33 left in regulation.
Leonard made two free throws to put San Antonio back on top, 80-79, with 1:12 left, but the Silver and Black wouldn't lead again until the OT period. After Memphis center Marc Gasol, Pau's younger brother, scored on a 14-foot jump shot to give the Grizzlies an 81-80 lead with 59.9 seconds remaining, Wade Baldwin IV made one of two free throws to make it a two-point game with 13.7 seconds left..
What followed was one of the most exciting endings to a Spurs game in history.
After a timeout, Leonard coolly buried a 14-foot step-back jumper to tie game at 82 with 4.9 seconds left. The Grizzlies came right back to go ahead 84-82 on a 12-foot turnaround jumper by Zach Randolph with 2.7 seconds remaining. As it turned out, Randolph left too much time on the clock.
After the Spurs took a 20-second timeout, Aldridge forced OT by scoring on an alley-oop inbounds from Gasol. There were still 1.5 seconds left, but Randolph missed on a 31-foot jumper as the buzzer sounded.
The Silver and Black outscored the Grizzlies 11-5 in OT. Gasol and Mills buried back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Spurs up 92-86 with 1:33 left in the extra period. Memphis drew to within 92-89 on two free throws by Randolph with 43 seconds left, but Leonard made three of four freebies to secure the victory.
Mike Conley, who left the game with 3:42 left in the fourth quarter after a collision with Leonard, led Memphis with 19 points. Randolph finished with a double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Conley received a bad gash on his right eyelid in the collision with Leonard and required stitches. He did not play again after getting injured.
The Grizzlies also played without their best defender, guard/forward Tony Allen, who was sidelined with a left eye injury.
San Antonio and Memphis split their four-game season series, with the home team winning each time.
The Spurs, who have won eight of their last nine games, host the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
Key Spurs reserve guard Manu Ginobili left the game 14 seconds into the second quarter and did not return after sustaining a right quad contusion.
Tuesday’s game was the first of four in five nights for the Silver and Black. The Spurs take Thursday off before playing at Dallas on Friday and hosting the Los Angeles Clippers in their regular-season home finale Saturday. The Clippers (47-31) are fifth in the West standings.
San Antonio plays at Portland on Monday and ends the regular season at Utah, fourth in the West at 47-30, next Wednesday. The NBA playoffs start on Saturday, April 15.
Three of the Spurs’ last five games are against teams that would make the playoffs if the postseason started Tuesday. Two of the three will be played at the AT&T Center.
Here is a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the Grizzlies-Spurs game Tuesday night.
Final: Spurs 95, Grizzlies 89, OT. Silver and Black improve to 60-17 and Grizzlies slip to 42-36. Kawhi Leonard leads all scorers with 32 points.
Overtime: Spurs 92, Grizzlies 86. Pau Gasol and Patty Mills have hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Silver and Black.The Spurs have nailed 11 of 20 shots from beyond the arc.
End of regulation: Grizzlies 84, Spurs 84. LaMarcus Aldridge scored on an alley-oop with 1.6 seconds to force overtime. His basket followed a bucket by Zach Randolph that put Memphis up 84-82 with 2.7 seconds remaining. Kawhi Leonard had tied the score at 82 on a jumper with 4.9 seconds to go.
Fourth quarter (2:54): Spurs 78, Grizzlies 73. Kawhi Leonard and Memphis point guard Mike Conley collide, bumping heads. Conley goes to the locker room.
Fourth quarter (7:49): Spurs 71, Grizzlies 60. LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard have drained back-to-back 3-pointers and a basket by Zach Randolph cut the Silver and Black's lead to 65-60.
Fourth quarter (8:44): Spurs 65, Grizzlies 60. Zach Randolph has scored six of Memphis' nine points in the quarter.
End of third quarter: Spurs 60, Grizzlies 51. Kawhi Leonard leads the Silver and Black with 17 points. Pau Gasol scored all nine of his points in the third period. Mike Conley leads Memphis with 15 points.
Third quarter (1:41): Spurs 56, Grizzlies 50. Pau Gasol has scored all of his seven points in the third period.
Third quarter (4:43): Spurs 47, Grizzlies 44. Kawhi Leonard leads the Silver and Black with 17 points.
Third quarter (10:50): Spurs 39, Grizzlies 35. Kawhi Leonard hits back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Silver and Black the lead. Leonard has scored 15 points.
Halftime: Grizzlies 35, Spurs 33
First-half notes: The Grizzlies' 35 points are a season-low for a Spurs opponent in the first half. The scoring total is also a season low for Memphis . . . The shooting percentages of both teams reflected the low-scoring half. The Grizzlies shot 35 percent overall (14/40) and 30 percent (3/10) from beyond the arc. The Silver and Black were a tad better, shooting 36.1 percent overall (13/36) and 33.3 percent (2/6) from the 3-point line . . . Memphis point guard Mike Conley, who scored 13 points, was the only player on either team to finish the half in double figures. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge lead the Spurs with nine points each. Tony Parker scored seven points in the first two quarters . . . The Grizzlies ended the first quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 16-14 lead. The Silver and Black were ahead 14-6, but didn't score in the final 6:26 of the quarter.
Second quarter (5:14): Grizzlies 26, Spurs 23. LaMarcus Aldridge leads the Silver and Black with nine points.
Second quarter (8:40): Grizzlies 21, Spurs 16. Jonathon Simmons ends the Silver and Black's scoring drought with a dunk at 9:37 of the period. The Spurs went almost nine minutes without scoring a point.
End of first quarter: Grizzlies 16, Spurs 14. Memphis ends the period on a 10-0 run. The Spurs didn't score in the last 6:26 of the quarter. The Silver and Black shot 26.3 percent overall (5/19) and 50 percent (2/4) from the 3-point line.
First quarter (3:16): Grizzlies 14, Spurs 14. LaMarcus Aldridge and Dewayne Dedmon lead the Silver and Black with four points apiece. Memphis is on a 10-2 run.
First quarter (7:34): Spurs 12, Grizzlies 4. Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard have nailed back-to-back 3-pointers for the Silver and Black. Timeout Memphis.
SPURS GAMEDAY: Clash with Grizzlies likely first-round playoff preview
Memphis Grizzlies (42-35) vs. Spurs (59-17)
Tipoff: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, AT&T Center
Season series: Grizzlies lead 2-1
Last meeting: Spurs 97, Grizzlies 90, March 23, AT&T Center
Grizzlies' last game: Lost to Lakers 108-103, Sunday, Los Angeles
Spurs' last game: Beat Jazz 109-103, Sunday, AT&T Center
Grizzlies' last 10 games: 5-5, lost five of last seven
Spurs' last 10 games: 7-3, won seven of last eight
Notable: The second-seeded Spurs would play the seventh-seeded Grizzlies in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs if the postseason started Tuesday.
SAN ANTONIO – If it comes to pass that the Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies meet in the first round of the playoffs, they could be a little weary of seeing each other by the time they tip off their series opener on Easter weekend at the AT&T Center.
The Southwest Division teams have met twice since March 18 and square off for the last time in the regular season – and third time in 18 days – Tuesday night at the AT&T Center. Memphis leads the season series 2-1, winning the first two games at home
If Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had his way, the Silver and Black wouldn’t face a potential playoff opponent in the last weeks of the regular season. He lamented the quirk in the schedule before the Spurs beat the Grizzlies 97-90 on March 23 at the AT&T Center.
“I never enjoy it,” Popovich said. “No matter who you’re playing at this late date, to play somebody that many times, and then very possibly have to play them starting the playoffs . . . you just don’t want to do that. You’d rather just stay away from them and play them when the playoffs come.”
Does playing a potential playoff opponent this late in the season change Popovich’s approach to those games?
“To some degree,” he said without elaborating.
But Popovich expanded on the subject later.
“You’re going to play them enough in the playoffs,” he said. “Why do you want to play them three or four more times? It’s boring. It’s boring for them. It’s boring for us to see each other that much. I just don’t think that’s fun.”
With the Spurs playing four games in the next five nights, Popovich is sure to rest players throughout the week. Starting guard Danny Green (left quad contusion) will not play against the Grizzlies, and Popovich told reporters before the game that he wasn't sure whether LaMarcus Aldridge (left thumb sprain) would play.
Even with everybody else suiting up except rookie point guard Dejounte Murray, who will miss his 12th consecutive game with a groin injury, Popovich could sit some of his players. Key reserves Patty Mills and David Lee were in uniform against Utah on Sunday but they never played.
Memphis guard/forward will miss Tuesday's game with an eye injury, but coach David Fizdale told reporters everybody else is available.
So how will Popovich play his hand Tuesday night?
“That’s a great question because they beat us twice,” point guard Tony Parker said. “I don’t know what Pop is going to decide. I don’t know who’s going to play. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
If the NBA playoffs started Tuesday, the Spurs and Grizzlies would square off in the first round for the second year in a row. The Silver and Black swept an injury-depleted Memphis team last season.
The Spurs (59-17) have six regular-season games left and already have clinched at least the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Tuesday’s clash against the Grizzlies is the front end of a back-to-back for the Silver and Black, who have won seven of their last eight games.
Memphis (42-35) is seventh in the West standings, trailing sixth-place Oklahoma City (43-33) by 1½ games and leading No. 8 Portland (38-39) by four. The Grizzlies have five games left, including a key matchup with OKC in Memphis on Wednesday, so there’s still a possibility the Spurs could play the Thunder in the first round if they slip down the stretch.
Four of the Spurs’ last six games are against teams that would make the playoffs if the postseason started Tuesday. Two of the four will be played at the AT&T Center.
After hosting the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, the Spurs take Thursday off before playing at Dallas on Friday and hosting the Los Angeles Clippers in their regular-season home finale Saturday. The Clippers (47-31) are fifth in the West standings.
San Antonio plays at Portland on Monday and ends the regular season at Utah, fourth in the West standings at 47-30, next Wednesday. The NBA playoffs start on Saturday, April 15.
Kawhi Leonard was held to 19 points in the Spurs’ 97-90 home win over the Grizzlies on March 23, but Aldridge took up the slack with 23 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Memphis beat the Silver and Black 89-74 on March 6 and 104-96 on March 18. San Antonio was held to its lowest scoring total of the season in the March 6 game, which was the first stop in the Spurs’ annual rodeo road trip. San Antonio played without Leonard (quad contusion) and Pau Gasol (broken left hand).
Popovich spoke highly of first-year Grizzlies coach David Fizdale.
“They were already a solid team,” Popovich said. “I think he’s made them even better at both ends of the floor. He’s done a great job for his first job. He gained the respect of those guys quickly. They bought in.
“They see his vision. He made some – not drastic changes – but he adjusted some things, especially at the offensive end, and they’ve reacted to it really well. He’s done a great job.”
Next up for the Spurs after Tuesday's game: vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, AT&T Center.