SAN ANTONIO (AP)—The San Antonio Spurs learned from the mistake they made last year.
As the top seed in the West, they came out flat and lost their playoff opener to the Phoenix Suns.
That memory motivated the Spurs in their 98-74 victory over Memphis in Game 1 on Saturday night. They have no plans to let up Monday night in the second game of the best-of-seven series.
“It was a big disappointment the way we lost (to the Suns), and we didn’t want to repeat it,” San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili said. “We wanted to be tough, aggressive and don’t slow down for 48 minutes.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich knows his postseason-savvy players won’t need to be reminded about how much Game 2 means.
“I’m not going to give them a Knute Rockne or ‘Hey, watch out guys,”’ Popovich said. “They’re too old for that.”
But the Spurs might be hard-pressed to improve on Saturday’s win.
They shot 54 percent and held Memphis to a season-low 34.8 percent. They scored 50 points in the paint, double the Grizzlies’ total. They forced 20 turnovers, 11 of them in the fourth quarter.
“It’s team defense for us—we rotate, we help,” said Tim Duncan, who had 26 points. “We’re not going to say one guy is going to have to stop everybody.”
That share-the-burden philosophy limited Pau Gasol, top scorer and rebounder for Memphis, to only one basket in the first half and two rebounds in his first playoff appearance.
“It was more physical than I expected, but now I know what the deal is,” said Gasol, who finished with 14 points on 3-for-11 shooting. “We’ve got to attack them a little harder, go strong to the rim, finish hard and forget about everything else.”
The first thing to forget is Game 1.
“If we’re going to move forward, we have to see the breakdowns,” Memphis coach Hubie Brown said. “We played a great team that played a great game on their own floor. But I’ve coached too many playoff games to get too bent out of shape. It’s only 0-1.”
Brown cited the Grizzlies’ problems in transition offense—they had 24 fast breaks, but only scored on 10 of them.
“The percentage was horrendous,” he said. “That has to be a major part of our game because they are such an excellent half-court defensive team.”
Point guard Jason Williams knows the Grizzlies aren’t as effective when their running game is not clicking, and it should help having their first playoff game as a franchise behind them.
“It was more us than them, us not being successful on the break,” he said. “But there shouldn’t be no jitters—this is what we do.”
Bonzi Wells, who led Memphis with 16 points on Saturday, didn’t practice Sunday because of irritation in a nerve that runs from his lower back to his knee. Brown said that team doctors have assured him that Wells will be ready Monday.