The San Antonio Spurs opened the Western Conference finals resembling the past champions who’ve been there so many times before.
The Memphis Grizzlies looked like the first-timers still trying to adapt to their first conference finals appearance.
Tony Parker had 20 points and nine assists, Kawhi Leonard scored 18 points and the Spurs struck first by beating Memphis 105-83 on Sunday.
San Antonio raced out to a 17-point lead in the first quarter, then came up with a response when Memphis rallied to get within six in the second half. Both teams pulled their starters with over 5 minutes left and the Spurs leading by 21…
The NBA’s stingiest defense wasn’t up to its usual standards, allowing the Spurs to hit 53 percent of their shots and a franchise postseason-record 14 3-pointers while All-Star power forward Zach Randolph struggled. Randolph had just two points, getting his only basket with 9:26 left in the game…
The four regular-season meetings were all won by the team with more points in the paint, but perimeter shooting proved to be a bigger factor in the playoff opener. Memphis, which was second in the NBA by holding opponents to 33.8 shooting on 3-pointers, let San Antonio make 13 of its first 24 from behind the arc and finish 14 of 29.
Danny Green connected three times and scored 16, and Matt Bonner hit four of his five attempts for 12 points…
Pondexter led Memphis with 17 points, Marc Gasol scored 15 and Mike Conley had 14 points and eight assists.
– Reported by Jeff Latzke of the Associated Press
Memphis’ abject lack of outside shooting (5 for 12 on 3s) killed them in two respects. One, they were outscored by 27 points from beyond the arc, easily the biggest different in the game. Two, it allowed the Spurs to basically ignore their perimeter players and collapse on the low-post tandem of Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Gasol was active early on, but he needed 16 shots to score 15 points while drawing just two free throws. Randolph barely got any touches at all, scoring his lone bucket on a tip-in while missing 7 of 8 shots. He had been averaging 19.7 points on 51.2-percent shooting in the postseason.
It’s fitting Gregg Popovich used a football metaphor to describe the Spurs’ strategy, which was basically a page taken straight from their first-round meeting with the Lakers — swarm the paint first, recover on shooters second.
“Zach and Marc are a heck of a combination, probably the best high-low combination in the league,” Popovich said. “Everything they do is really difficult to stick with, and you’ve got to have a mindset to do it on every down. You can’t be perfect at it. They’re just too good. But the effort was there for 48 minutes.”
– Reported by Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News