After the Los Angeles Lakers embarrassed the Spurs on Wednesday night, Tim Duncan all but guaranteed he and his teammates would be ready to face the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night.
With Duncan leading the way with 28 points and 12 rebounds, the Spurs pulled out a hard-fought 107-97 victory against the Grizzlies at the AT&T Center to stop a two-game skid and pull within a half-game of first-place Oklahoma City in the Western Conference race.
While the Spurs had two five-minute spells in which they were held scoreless Thursday night, their effort was markedly better than it was in their 98-84 loss to the Lakers.
"I was proud of them tonight to come back after an embarrassing loss like that and play the way they did," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We played with some physicality and a little bit of an edge where I thought we got jumped on last night and we didn't respond very well."
After getting outrebounded 60-33 by Los Angeles --- Andrew Bynum grabbed 30 rebounds, or just three fewer than the entire Spurs squad --- the Silver and Black fought the Grizzlies to a 41-41 stalemate under the boards.
Still, the game was far from a masterpiece for San Antonio, which came close to losing three in a row for the first time this season.
Ginobili 11 of 11 from the free-throw line
The Spurs (41-16) appeared to be on the verge of putting the game away when they took an 88-74 lead on a layup by Manu Ginobili with 9:37 left, but Memphis (34-24) refused to fold and pulled to within 94-92 with 2:54 remaining.
After a timeout, the Spurs steadied themselves and outscored the Grizzlies 13-5 the rest of the way.
Ginobili scored 20 points and was 11 of 11 from the free-throw line. Tony Parker, who had just four points against the Lakers, finished with 13 points and nine assists.
"We got back on track," Duncan said. "That was the key to the whole thing. We played awful against the Lakers and we got blown out. We came back here tonight, against another good team and (gave) a much better effort. We still had lulls in there where we turned the ball over and it led to bad plays."
The game was the fourth in five nights for the Spurs, who host the Phoenix Suns (30-28) Saturday at 8 p.m.
Duncan, who hit 10 of 15 shots, scored 20 of his points in the second half and matched his season high for a game. He had 14 points against the Lakers but finished with only two rebounds.
"We knew this was going to be physical tonight," Duncan said. "They go hard on the boards and rely on offensive rebounds. We had to counter that. I thought we played a little better today. We moved the ball a little better."
Spurs sweep season series against Grizzlies
Popovich heaped praise on Duncan, who turns 36 on April 25, but has played like a younger player for much of the season.
"Well, Timmy's had a really fine year," Popovich said. "He's been consistent and done a great job all year and tonight he surpassed that. He stepped it up a whole other level. He was phenomenal. He was just a monster."
Rudy Gay scored 19 points to lead the Grizzlies, who had won four in a row. The loss was only the third in 12 games for Memphis since the return of Zach Randolph, who injured his right knee against Chicago on New Year's Day. He missed 43 games before returning to the floor.
Randolph, who figured prominently in Memphis' ouster of the top-seeded Spurs in the first round of the playoffs last year, was held to 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Spurs swept Memphis 4-0 this season.
The Spurs led 27-21 after one quarter, but the Grizzlies were on top 49-45 at halftime. San Antonio outscored Memphis 37-25 in the third period to take an 82-74 lead into the final quarter.
"We started more aggressive and we moved the ball better," Ginobili said, referring to the Spurs' third-quarter run. "When we move the ball, attack, and kick, we are so much better. The game gets easier. I think we did that in the third. That got us a lead and then we lost it, but the tone was already different.
"We needed to come back today and play hard, play well, to feel good about ourselves against a good opponent. We did not play that sharp, but we played hard and that's what is important."
The Spurs have nine regular season left, four at home and five on the road.