Spurs 95, Grizzlies 82

Manu Ginobili never saw the Memphis Grizzlies play that badly in

the playoffs, and is pretty sure he won’t again.

But the San Antonio Spurs will take it.

Ginobili scored 24 points and San Antonio ran away from what

barely resembled the up-and-coming Memphis team that stunned the

61-win Spurs in the first round last season, beating the Grizzlies

95-82 on Monday night.

San Antonio began what could be Tim Duncan’s final season with a

satisfying bit of payback but otherwise didn’t read much into the

victory. Take Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, who utterly bullied the

Spurs in that playoff series but combined for just 23 points this

time.

”Zac was off. He didn’t have of these games in the playoffs,”

Ginobili said. ”That happens the first game of the season. We all

need time to get back in shape. ”

Rudy Gay led Memphis with 19 points and 10 rebounds in his first

game in nearly 10 months. Gay missed the end of last season with a

bad left shoulder, including when Memphis knocked out the

top-seeded Spurs.

Yet even with the full starting lineup that Memphis would’ve

preferred in last year’s playoffs, the Grizzlies still remained

winless on opening night since the franchise left Vancouver in

2001.

Not quite the start the NBA’s breakout team of last season had

in mind.

”We didn’t play very well. We did turn the ball over alot, but

we didn’t guard,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. ”We didn’t

guard them in the pick in roll. We gave up transition points. It

was not a very well-played game by us at all.”

The Grizzlies committed 24 turnovers. Randolph had 10 points and

six rebounds and Gasol had 13 and six. In the playoffs series

against the Spurs, Randolph averaged 21.5 points.

It’s not like the Spurs got any bigger to defend the Grizzlies’

big frontline. DeJuan Blair, the 6-foot-7 center deemed too

ineffective by coach Gregg Popovich to even play Games 5 and 6

against Memphis, was back in the starting lineup.

The Spurs have precious few alternatives: forward Antonio

McDyess officially retired in training camp, and they haven’t added

a big man to replace him. Yet San Antonio was helped by 7-footer

Tiago Splitter, who didn’t look as lost as he did as rookie against

Memphis last season.

”He was really solid,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ”He

stayed in good position, he blocked shots and he rebounded. He was

real special tonight.”

Mike Conley had 11 points and seven assists for the Grizzlies.

Memphis led by one at halftime but were blown out in the third

quarter after shooting just 29 percent from the floor.

Despite the loss, Gay was satisfied with his return.

”It’s kind of bittersweet we lost, but it good that I’m healthy

and I can get out there and play,” he said.

Richard Jefferson, once thought to be a goner in San Antonio

under the NBA’s new amnesty clause, added 14 points for the Spurs.

Duncan had 10 points in 22 minutes as the challenge of rationing

the 35-year-old’s minutes in a compressed, grueling schedule

began.

Duncan is playing in the final year of his contract but hasn’t

said whether this will be his last run for a fifth title.

If Duncan and the Spurs have one last championship run left in

them, there was no better first test than Memphis. The bigger and

quicker Grizzlies gave the aging Spurs fits in the playoffs last

April even without Gay, who had been Memphis’ second-leading

scorer.

For opening night, at least, San Antonio showed it can still

keep up.

Leonard can take some credit for that. The 15th overall pick

brought a jolt off the bench in the third quarter when the Spurs

opened up a 19-point lead despite trailing at halftime. Leonard had

six points during the stretch, including hitting a corner 3-pointer

after catching a nifty behind-the-back pass from Ginobili.

Leonard is the centerpiece of what the Spurs are calling their

youth movement – seven of their 13 players have fewer than three

years of experience. But the face and fortunes of the franchise

still firmly belong to Parker, Ginobili and Duncan, who started

their 10th season together.

Notes: Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III watched the game

with some of his Baylor teammates. The Bears are in town to play

Washington in the Alamo Bowl on Thursday…Academy Award winner

Tommy Lee Jones, who owns a home in San Antonio, sat courtside with

Spurs owner Peter Holt. …The Spurs remain without G Gary Neal

after the second-year backup had his appendix removed during

training camp.