Balance, bench lead Spurs past Grizzlies

Danny Sanchez, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAN ANTONIO-- It's been 132 days since the San Antonio Spurs walked off the floor in Miami, finishing one game short of their fifth NBA championship after losing a heartbreaking 7-game series to the Heat.
On Wednesday night, they walked backed onto the court, trying to exorcise the loss and begin the quest of finding a way back to the Finals one more time. Tony Parker had 13 points and nine assists to lead the Spurs to a 101-94 win over the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night in a rematch of last year's Western Conference Finals.
"We won," said a stoic Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "We have 81 more games."
Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw each scored 14 points and Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills each added 12 for San Antonio. Tiago Splitter added 11 points for the Spurs, who are looking to rebound quickly with their veteran team.
San Antonio went on a 20-3 run midway through the second period led by Mills, who scored all 12 points of his points in a five-minute span to help push the lead to 38-22 halfway through the quarter.
Mills was perfect from the field, going 4 for 4 from the field, including three 3-pointers.
"He (Mills) was a great boost," Parker said of his backup. "He has been playing well the whole preseason. He knocked down 3's all preseason and that is what he did tonight."
The Spurs were bolstered by a bench that outscored the Grizzlies bench 28-7 in the first half. They went into the locker room up 48-27 after Leonard slammed home the final points of the half. San Antonio needed it, as the Big Three of Tim Duncan, Parker and Ginobili combined to go 5 of 15 before the break.
Duncan left the game at the beginning of the third quarter with a chest contusion and did not return. He finished with three points and six rebounds in 17 minutes.
"He'll get checked out tomorrow," Popovich said. "He had spasms in his shoulder and his neck. It looks like his chest is bruised. He caught an elbow, so it kind of affected from his chest up through his neck at some how or another."
Memphis, which led 20-18 at the end of the first quarter, could only manage two field goals on 18 attempts in the second quarter.
"It was a good win for us against a very physical team," Parker said. "We played good defense, especially in the first half. But it is always tough in the NBA to keep a 20-point lead."
The Grizzlies cut that 20-point deficit to five in the fourth quarter on a bucket by Quincy Pondexter with 7:08 remaining, making it 80-75. San Antonio answered with back-to-back 3's from Danny Green and Parker.
San Antonio was 11 of 20 (55 percent) from the 3-point line for the game.
"Our defense couldn't hold them in long enough for us to make it all the way back," said Grizzlies coach David Joerger. "We won three of the four quarters. That's like a consolation prize when you still get the loss."
Tony Allen topped all Memphis scorers with 15 points. Marc Gasol added 14 points and nine rebounds, Mike Conley had 14 points and six assists and Pondexter finished with 13 points.
Memphis, which lost all eight games against the Spurs last year, struggled to get production from Zach Randolph. He had two points on 1-for-6 shooting with seven rebounds.
"Lack of execution," Allen said. "Not getting back in transition. A lot of mishaps on coverage and that led to those guys getting up with the lead," said Allen. "I still believe we're a work in progress, and we're going to learn from this and try to carry on that second half into the next game against the (Detroit) Pistons."
NOTES: San Antonio traditionally features strong international representation, and this year is no different. Ten of the 14 players are foreign, representing seven countries, the most of any team in the league. ... New Memphis head coach Dave Joerger is very familiar with the Grizzlies. He spent five seasons as an assistant to the man he replaced, Lionel Hollins. ... San Antonio entered Wednesday 15-1 on opening nights under Popovich, the most wins in openers among active coaches. ... The Grizzlies were coming off their most successful regular season in franchise history. They went 56-26 in 2012-13 and reached the Western Conference finals for the first time.

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