SAN ANTONIO — Things are going to have to change quickly if the Memphis Grizzlies hope to steal home-court advantage away from the San Antonio Spurs in their best-of-seven Western Conference first-round playoff series that continues Monday at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs took the opening game of the series on Saturday, riding a 19-0 surge over a five-minute span bridging the third and fourth quarters to turn a tight contest into a 111-82 rout.
San Antonio led 74-64 with 1:53 to play in the third quarter but closed the quarter on a 10-0 run and added the first nine points of the fourth quarter to build a 93-64 advantage. During that stretch, Memphis missed nine consecutive shots and committed three turnovers.
“The best part was the team keeping its composure, not going off in different directions and just trying to do what he planned execution-wise on both ends of the floor,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “I thought we got better as the game went on.”
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with a career-playoff-high-tying 32 points, 15 of which came in the third quarter when he matched the Grizzlies’ entire offensive output.
“We are on our home floor and we went down early, but we stayed in it,” Leonard said when asking about the Spurs’ comeback from 13 points down in the first quarter. “We got physical and got some stops and got rolling from there.”
The Spurs rested their starters for the entire fourth quarter, which could be a huge advantage in a series that is expected to be a physical one between grind-it-out teams.
Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 32 points, 25 of which came in the first half when he outscored the rest of his teammates combined by a point. Gasol said the Spurs defended better as a team, especially in the paint, in the second half.
“We know they are good at that, and we wanted to try to attack them one-on-one,” Gasol said. “They plugged the paint, and we’ve got to be a little more disciplined with our spacing and hold our spots so we have outlets when we drive. We’ve got to be a little more conscious when we drive to be patient and kick it and make them work so we get multiple passes in every possession.”
And once things went south for the Grizzlies, they never found their usual ability to stem the negative flow. Memphis scored just 33 points in the second half and missed 9 of its 10 3-point attempts after halftime.
“(San Antonio) just got after us — they upped their pressure,” Memphis coach David Fizdale said. “We went over it (in game planning), we expected it, but we didn’t respond well to it. Give the Spurs credit; they really turned the game around defensively against us. They forced us into some tough situations in that third quarter and broke the game open.”
Mike Conley added 13 points for Memphis but didn’t score after the eight-minute mark of the second quarter.
“We have to get Mike (Conley) going,” Fizdale said. “Without Mike having a big series, this won’t be much of a series; we understand that.”
Memphis was affected by the absence of defensive ball hawk Tony Allen, who missed Game 1 with a right calf injury and is not expected to play on Monday. San Antonio reported a clean injury sheet on Sunday afternoon.
Games 3 and 4 of the series will be Thursday and Saturday in Memphis, respectively.