Spurs (52-15) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (39-30)
Tipoff: 8 p.m., Saturday, Memphis, Tenn.
Spurs’ last game: Lost to Trail Blazers 110-106, Wednesday, AT&T Center
Grizzlies’ last game: Beat Hawks 103-91, Thursday, Atlanta
Season series: Grizzlies lead 1-0
Last meeting: Grizzlies 89, Spurs 74, Feb. 6, Memphis
Spurs’ last 10 games: 8-2
Grizzlies’ last 10 games: 5-5, won last three
Notable: Rookie point guard Dejounte Murray (left groin) is out for Saturday night's game. Starting point guard Tony Parker, who has missed the Spurs' last four games with stiffness in his back, is expected to play.
SAN ANTONIO – Torched for a combined 62 points by the dynamic backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in a 110-106 home loss to Portland on Wednesday, the Spurs find themselves having to bounce back on the road Saturday night against a surging Memphis team.
Moreover, the Grizzlies beat the Silver and Black 89-74 in their first meeting of the season nearly six weeks ago in Memphis, where the Spurs started their annual rodeo road trip. Starting with Saturday night’s game, the Southwest Division teams will play each other three times in the homestretch of the regular season.
Saturday’s 8 p.m. clash, the front end of a back-to-back, will feature the first duel this season between Spurs center Pau Gasol and his younger brother, Marc, who plays the same position for the Grizzlies. Pau was out with a broken finger in his left hand when the teams met Feb. 6.
“They’re a tough team,” Pau said of Memphis after the loss to Portland. “They play really well, especially at home. We’re just going to have to be ready for the matchup, be ready for the challenge. We struggled with the first game down there. We have them three out of the 15 games we have left, so we want to play well. We want to be ready, and try to win that game.”
The Silver and Black will get right back at it Sunday, hosting Sacramento in a 6 p.m. game.
The Spurs swept the injury-depleted Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs last season, and the teams could meet in their opening postseason series again this year.
San Antonio (52-15) is second in the NBA’s Western Conference standings, trailing Golden State by 1.5 games (one game in the loss column). Memphis (39-30) is seventh in the West, but trails Oklahoma City by only a half-game (one in the loss column) and the Los Angeles Clippers by one game (also one in the loss column).
Led by Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies have won three in a row. Gasol had his third career triple-double in a 103-91 road win over Atlanta on Thursday, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Marc Gasol, a three-time All-Star playing in his ninth NBA season, is averaging a career-high 20.2 points and 4.5 assists. He’s also averaging 6.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Gasol and forward Zach Randolph each scored 15 points in the victory over the Spurs last month.
Kawhi Leonard, the Silver and Black’s leading scorer, sat out the first game against the Grizzlies with a quad contusion. The Spurs shot only 36.6 percent (30/82) and made only 4 of 19 attempts from the 3-point line.
Pau Gasol, 36, is four years older than Marc. A six-time All-Star playing in his 16th NBA season, Gasol is averaging 12.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 blocks in his first campaign with the Silver and Black. He started 39 games before fracturing the left metacarpal in his left hand Jan. 19, and has come off the bench since returning from the injury Feb. 24.
The Spurs have no illusions about the challenge they’ll face in Memphis.
“You’ve got some teams that are fighting for big things, some other teams with no big responsibilities, so they’re playing freely,” guard Manu Ginobili said. “Everything is complicated at this point. We want to get that one. We didn’t play well in that game at the beginning of the road trip in February.
“Playing Memphis is a team that gets you better because of their toughness, their aggressiveness, their solid defense. Very important game. We want to get this one back.”
The game will be Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge’s second since getting cleared to return to the court after being diagnosed with a minor heart arrhythmia March 10. He missed two games before starting against Portland and finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“Great feeling,” Ginobili said when asked what it was like to see Aldridge play again. “We were a little worried, a little concerned. That type of issue is not a hand, an ankle, a knee, or something like that.
“It’s really an important organ, so when we heard that he was fine, healthy and ready to be back with the team and doing great, it’s nothing to worry about, it was a great feeling. Besides the point of playing today or not, the important thing is that he’s healthy.”
Next up for the Spurs after Saturday's game: vs. Sacramento Kings, 6 p.m., Sunday, AT&T Center
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