Game rewind: Second-half turnaround helps spark Spurs comeback

For a time Thursday night, the Spurs appeared to be reverting to the form that led to their embarrassing loss to the Los Angeles Lakers the night before.

A drought of nearly six minutes enabled Memphis to take control of the game and push their lead to nine points late in the second quarter. The Grizzlies were having their way inside as the Spurs appeared to be falling into the same lapses that led to the humiliating loss a night earlier.

“We got pushed around and beat up against the Lakers,” Spurs forward Stephen Jackson said. “They were the most physical team and it showed. Today, we hit back and were more aggressive, especially in the second half.”

The Spurs shot 57.6 percent in the second half and outrebounded the Grizzlies 23-15 after being outrebounded by eight in the first half. Vintage performances by Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili down the stretch enabled the Spurs to claim a 107-97 victory.

“Pop came in and got on our butts and we went out in the second half and were a more physical team,” Jackson said. “This is becoming playoff ball and how we need to get ready. This is how it’s going to be in the playoffs.”

After the two-game losing streak there were some questions coming into the Memphis game. Duncan and Ginobili answered them in the second half.

Here’s how the Spurs finished off a season sweep against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season.

The game, simply stated: After a slow start, Ginobili and Duncan had huge games as the Spurs’ offense kicked into gear and led the to victory against one of the NBA’s toughest defenses in the NBA.  

Early surge: The Spurs took a 23-17 lead after 3-pointers by Ginobili and Jackson in a 25-second span late in the first half. They maintained their six-point lead on a dunk by Tiago Splitter after a nice feed from Ginobili with 31.9 seconds left in the quarter.

Memphis charges ahead: Another Splitter dunk pushed the Spurs’ lead to eight on their first possession of the second quarter and Danny Green’s 3-pointer gave them a 36-31 advantage with 8:14 left. Memphis utilized frigid San Antonio shooting to stun them with a 16-2 spurt capped by a 10-foot jumper by Marc Gasol  for a 45-38 lead with 2:08 left in the half. During the drought, the Spurs missed seven straight shots and made three turnovers before Duncan’s jumper stopped it. 

Late flurry before the half: Boris Diaw provided five points at the end of the first half on a 3-pointer and a fast-break layup that pulled the Spurs within 49-45 at intermission. It also earned him a start for the second half.  

The turning point: The Spurs took control during a 19-4 run late in the third quarter that extended into the fourth quarter. Matt Bonner gave the Spurs the lead for good at 72-70 on a 3-pointer with 2:55 left in the third quarter. Gary Neal added five more points later in the quarter. The Spurs finished it off with six points to start the fourth quarter on two Ginobili baskets sandwiching a hoop by Bonner. Ginobili’s final basket in the run gave them an 88-74 lead with 9:37 left.

Memphis answers: Green’s 3-pointer gave the Spurs a 94-81 edge with 7:41 left. Memphis countered with 11 straight points capped by a fast-break 3-pointer by O.J. Mayo that pulled them within 94-92 with 2:54 left. The sputtering Spurs missed six shots and committed  four turnovers during the Grizzlies’ charge, including three turnovers on consecutive possessions.

The clincher: Green sank two free throws with 2:27 left to end the scoring drought. Duncan then provided a critical three-point play and a tip-in before Ginobili sank six straight free throws in the final  minute to ice the victory.

Player of the game I: After guaranteeing his team would respond after the loss to the Lakers, Duncan erupted for a season-high 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.  Duncan scored 20 of his points in the second half.

Player of the game II: Ginobili is coming to peak form as he went for 20 points, six rebounds and four assists and hit 11 straight foul shots. Seventeen of his points came int the second half.

Player of the game III: Marc Gasol was productive inside for the Grizzlies with 14 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three assists. But he only took eight shots and the Grizzlies’ reliance on their outside game hurt them down the stretch.

Unsung hero: His status was questionable after missing the Lakers’ game with stomach flu, but Gary Neal hit a couple of big shots late in the third quarter during the Spurs’ run and finished with seven points.

Attendance: A playoff rematch with Memphis for the Spurs prompted another sellout crowd of 18,581 for the Spurs — even on the back side of a back-to-back. It was the Spurs’ 23rd capacity crowd in 29 home games this season, including 20 of their last 22 home games and their 16th in a row. The last non-capacity home game came Feb. 2 against New Orleans.

Did you notice I: Bonner had an eventful night. He started by missing his first four 3-pointers before hitting the shot that gave the Spurs the lead for good late in the third quarter. He also was involved in a physical defensive battle with Zach Randolph, fronting him as he tried to keep the ball away from Memphis’ most productive inside weapon. And Bonner finished up with a punishing head-to-head collision late in the game where he crashed into Marc Gasol.

Did you notice II: For the second straight game, the height of Memphis made DeJuan Blair a non-factor. After playing 13:23 and less than two minutes in the second half against the Lakers on Wednesday, he logged 11:48 against Memphis and did not play after halftime.

Did you notice III: Considering his dominance in last season’s playoff, it would have been expected that Randolph would have been a key component down the stretch for the Grizzlies. Instead, Randolph got one shot — a weak 3-pointer at the end of a 24-second shot clock — in the fourth quarter. Rudy Gay had nine attempts and hit two of them, including 0 for 3 from 3-point range.  

Stat of the game I: Duncan matched his season high with 28 points, equalling his 28-point effort Jan. 23 at New Orleans.  

Stat of the game II: After being outrebounded 60-33 Wednesday night against the Lakers, the Spurs and Memphis were even with 41 rebounds. The Spurs outrebounded Memphis in the second half, 23-15.  

Stat of the game III: The Spurs snapped the Grizzlies’ 11-game streak of limiting opponents to less than 100 points, becoming the first team to score more than 100 since the Los Angeles Clippers on March 24.

Stat of the game IV: The victory pulled the Spurs within half a game of idle Oklahoma City. The two teams are even in the loss column. San Antonio has 41 victories, compared to Oklahoma City’s 42. The Spurs have nine games remaining and the Thunder have eight games left.

Stat of the game V:  San Antonio shot 57.6 percent (19 of 33 from the field) in the second half compared to Memphis’ 35.6 percent (16 of 45).

Stat of the game VI: The Spurs avoided losing three games in a row for the first time since the final two regular season games of last season and their opening game loss in the playoffs to Memphis.

Weird stat of the night I: Tony Parker matched his season high with seven turnovers, set Jan. 10 against Milwaukee. Six of them came in the second half — three in the third quarter and three in the fourth quarter.  It tied for the second-most turnovers in his career as his high is eight.

Weird stat of the night II: The Spurs limited Memphis to 29.2 percent shooting in the fourth quarter, but the Grizzlies still scored 23 points and came within two points of outscoring them in the quarter.

Weird stat of the night III: Manu Ginobili hit all 11 foul shots, marking the second time in three games he has had at least 11 free throws. In Ginobili’s career, he’s had 82 games (regular season and playoff) with at least 10 foul shots. The Spurs are 67-15 in those games.

Weird stat of the night IV: The Spurs had 18 turnovers — one of their nine highest totals and their most in a game since they had 18 against Philadelphia on March 25.

Weird stat of the night V: Despite matching his season low with two rebounds against the Lakers Wednesday night, Duncan’s big game enabled him to continue a strong recent stretch. Over his last four games, he’s shooting 62.5 percent from the field (30 of 48) and averaging 18.5 points and 9.0 rebounds.  

Weird stat of the night VI: The only Spurs who were positive in plus minus against the Lakers were James Anderson and Patty Mills. They were the only players who did not see action Thursday night against Memphis.

Not a good sign: The Spurs endured two scoring droughts of more than five minutes apiece and still won. That’s not a trend that Gregg Popovich wants to carry into the playoffs.

Best plus/minus scores: Bonner was plus-22, Bonner, Jackson and Tiago Splitter all were plus-11 and Parker was plus-10.

Worst plus/minus scores: Diaw was minus-7, Blair was minus-5 and Kawhi Leonard was minus-4. The Spurs’ bench was a collective plus-48 and the starters were plus-2.

Quote of the game: “He stepped it up to a whole other level. He was phenomenal. He was a monster,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Duncan’s big night.

How the schedule stacks up: The Spurs will host Phoenix on Saturday before beginning a punishing road back-to-back-to-back with games Monday at Golden State, Tuesday at the Lakers and Wednesday at Sacramento. The Grizzlies return home to face Utah on Saturday before road games Sunday at New Orleans and Tuesday at Minnesota.

Injuries: The Spurs were healthy. Memphis played without defensive stopper Tony Allen, who has missed five games with a severe facial laceration.

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