Ginobili's 24 helps Spurs get revenge on Grizzlies

The Associated Press
Ginobili's 24 helps Spurs get revenge on Grizzlies
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San Antonio Spurs' Richard Jefferson, center, drives between Memphis Grizzlies' O.J. Mayo, rear, and Quincy Pondexter during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 26, 2011, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) 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.