Defensive Spurs edge out Grizzlies in opener

SAN ANTONIO (Texas) • Defence carried San Antonio to the second-best record in the National Basketball Association (NBA) this season. But it is likely to be their ability to get the most out of their offensive opportunities that will be the key for a push for a sixth title since 1999.

Kawhi Leonard scored 20 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 points, as the San Antonio Spurs dominated the middle-two quarters and romped past the Memphis Grizzlies 106-74 on Sunday in Game One of their Western Conference quarter-final play-off series.

The Spurs outscored the Grizzlies 24-6 over the final 8min 4sec of the third period, turning a contentious game into a rout, and led 81-51 with a quarter to play.

The fourth quarter was left to mostly the reserves, with Game Two to be played today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time).

"It just takes a little while," said the Spurs' Tim Duncan, who had seven points and 11 rebounds.

"Once we got it going, then some shots started falling. That's when we were able to extend the lead. Defensively, we were pretty solid the whole way through."

Tony Parker and Patty Mills scored 15 points each for the Spurs and Kevin Martin added 10 points, all in the fourth quarter.

San Antonio hit on 42 of their 81 shots (52 per cent), out-rebounded the Grizzlies 44-35 and had nine blocked shots to Memphis' three.

Vince Carter led the Grizzlies with 16 points, while Lance Stephenson netted 14 points.

Memphis, who have now lost all five games they played against the Spurs this season, was held to a season low in points, shot just 39 per cent and went to the free-throw line only six times.

"Defence is the focus of our programme and I thought in the second half we did that pretty good," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Both teams played a ragged first quarter as there were nearly as many bodies pushed to the floor, with baskets made while each squad tried to establish a physical presence.

The Spurs shot just 35 per cent from the floor. Memphis netted only five of 22 field-goal attempts, with the age-less Carter scoring the Grizzlies' first seven points.

The 39-year-old, in his 18th NBA season, knows just how quickly the Spurs can pull away. San Antonio shot 68 per cent in the third period.

"When you are turning the ball over and not getting shots, a five-point lead can turn into a 20-point lead in the blink of an eye," Carter said. "That's what happened tonight."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2016, with the headline 'Defensive Spurs edge out Grizzlies in opener'. Print Edition | Subscribe