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Spurs top Grizzlies, but Parker exits early

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker converted all four of his shots in the first quarter, staking his team to a 16-point lead against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Then he left the Spurs to fend for themselves, gone for the night with back spasms. They did just fine without him.

Forward Kawhi Leonard and guard Manu Ginobili scored 26 points apiece and the Spurs beat Memphis 112-92 Sunday night to complete a sweep of the four-game season series against a possible first-round NBA Western Conference playoff opponent.

San Antonio (60-17) began the night with the best record in the conference — and the league — while Memphis (45-32) was eighth in the West.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said that Parker would undergo an MRI on his back Monday.

“He was just sore in his lower back,” Ginobili said. “We have to just hope it’s a couple-day thing.”

Leonard matched a career-best with his 26 points, which were nearly 14 more than his average. He hit 12 of 13 shots, including both of his 3-point attempts. He also dished out five assists, matching guard Cory Joseph for team best.

“Kawhi did what we are asking him to do — become more comfortable offensively and concentrating on his defense,” Popovich said.

Leonard said a game like this one helps him.

“You just want to keep shooting and see when you’re going to miss again,” Leonard said. “You just get in a rhythm.”

Ginobili converted 8 of 11 shots, including 4 of 6 3-pointers. He played eight minutes in the fourth quarter, more than he normally would have in such a one-sided game. Popovich said Ginobili is not yet in top condition heading to the playoffs.

“We were trying to get him a few extra minutes,” Popovich said. “You are scared to do that because you don’t want him to get hurt, but he has to get in shape.”

Forward James Johnson led Memphis with a season-high 20 points, hitting 7 of 11 shots. Guard Mike Conley scored 18.

Memphis scored just 10 points in the first quarter — and trailed by 16 — but that was not a low mark for the season. The Grizzlies produced seven points in the second quarter, also at San Antonio, on Oct. 30.

With Parker gone, Leonard and Ginobili made sure the Spurs maintained their edge.

Leonard converted all seven of his shots in the first half, scoring 15 points, including 11 in the second quarter. His 27-foot 3-pointer just ahead of the buzzer gave San Antonio a 54-38 halftime lead.

Ginobili also scored 11 points in the second quarter, and 13 for the half, enabling San Antonio to take a 54-38 lead to the locker room. Ginobili hit three 3-point baskets in the second quarter.

Conley made sure the Grizzlies didn’t get completely buried by halftime, scoring 13 points. He averaged 24 points in the three previous games this season against San Antonio.

But Conley scored just five points in the second half. Popovich gave credit to Joseph, who played 14 minutes in the second half filling in for Parker.

“He did a great job defensively,” Popovich said. “He put a lot of pressure (on Memphis) and took some time off the clock for them to run their offense. That’s what he does really well.”

Memphis coach David Joerger said his team is suffering from fatigue.

“We have been fighting, fighting and fighting all season,” Joerger said. “And we have done a great job of holding on to the rope and playing every game with a sense of urgency. We are out of gas and energy.”

Conley said the Grizzlies will have to work through that like any other team.

“Obviously it’s the end of the year,” Conley said. “Everybody’s legs are tired.”

NOTES: Memphis F Tayshaun Prince, who averages six points and three rebounds, missed the game due to a sprained left ankle. … Spurs reserve F/C Aron Baynes missed his fourth consecutive game with a rib injury. … Memphis, in a tight race to make the Western Conference playoffs, has its next two games at home, where the Grizzlies have won 11 straight. The Grizzlies play host to the Miami Heat on Wednesday and the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday. … Coach Gregg Popovich on his game plan as the Spurs prepare for the playoffs: “You don’t want to over-play guys, so I’m probably not gonna play somebody 42 minutes to win a game. That probably wouldn’t be wise. At the same time, you don’t want to win every game by 20 and have guys play 22 minutes. So I’d rather have more competitive games. Win a few, lose a few and be sharper and have them in good shape.”

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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