Splitter solid in playoff debut

By Mike Monroe

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – After watching the first three games of the Spurs-Grizzlies playoff series, Spurs rookie center Tiago Splitter finally made his postseason debut in Monday’s Game 4.

His performance turned out to be one of the few bright spots for the Spurs. The 25-year-old rookie from Brazil logged 21 minutes and 32 seconds and scored 10 points, with nine rebounds. He made 5 of 9 shots and committed only one turnover.

“I thought he was wonderful,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I thought he did a lot of good things out there.”

Popovich opened the second half with Splitter on the court instead of veteran Antonio McDyess, but Popovich said that was a tactical decision only.

“Antonio had three (first-half) fouls, and you need him at the end of the game to guard Zach (Randolph),” he said. “We didn’t want to start Antonio for that reason.”

Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins admitted to some surprise at seeing Splitter on the floor but said his presence didn’t change anything about his team’s game plan.

“As the series goes on, teams start making adjustments,” he said, “and sure enough he comes out and is playing. I talked about him before and what his game was, and he played pretty decent for them. They decided to go with him and go bigger than (DeJuan) Blair.”

NO MESSAGE: Blair was one of four substitutions with 5:43 left in the game and the Spurs trailing by 20. He came in along with Splitter, Danny Green, and Steve Novak, joining rookie Gary Neal, and the Spurs finished the game without a starter on the floor.

The rationale, said Popovich, was not to send any sort of message to his key players, but to get them some rest.

“What would that message be?” he said. “We’re going to play again in a couple days, and I didn’t see us getting back into that game.

“There’s no sense leaving those guys out there to do it. They’ll need their juice for the next game.”

SECURITY INCREASED: After encountering problems with rowdy Grizzlies fans as they exited the team bus to return to their hotel following Saturday’s Game 3, the Spurs requested, and received, an increased security detail before departing the hotel for Game 4.

“We spoke to the appropriate hotel personnel about the problems, and there were no more problems tonight,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said.

WORTH NOTING: Grizzlies starting forward Tony Allen trimmed the shaggy beard he had been cultivating for more than a month, declaring he had to make a change because he did not like how he had played in Game 3, when he fouled out … The Grizzlies forbade fans on Monday from bringing into the arena the giant face cut-out of Tony Parker’s former wife, Eva Longoria, depicted wearing a Grizzlies headband, that had been on display during Game 3. A Grizzlies spokesperson said the team deemed the display inappropriate and said the club regretted its appearance in Game 3 … Spurs captain Tim Duncan turned 35 on Monday.

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