The San Antonio Spurs opened the Western Conference finals resembling the past champs who’ve been there so many times before.
The Memphis Grizzlies looked like the first-timers still trying to adapt to their first conference finals appearance.
Tony Parker had 20 points and 9 assists, Kawhi Leonard scored 18 points and the Spurs struck first by beating Memphis 105-83 on Sunday.
San Antonio raced out to a 17-point lead in the first quarter, and then came up with a response when Memphis rallied to get within 6 in the 2nd half. Both teams pulled their starters with over 5 minutes left and the Spurs leading by 21.
”I can promise you this: Nobody’s happy in our locker room, as we were up 2-0 (in the West finals) last year and we lost,” Parker said. ”It’s only 1 game. It means nothing. We still have a long way to go.”
The Spurs avoided a repeat of their Game 1 loss when the teams met 2 years back in the 1st round. The Grizzlies went on to knock San Antonio out of the playoffs as the top seed that time.
Memphis has lost its opener in each round in this year’s playoffs, recovering from an 0-2 hole in the first round against the LA Clippers and an 0-1 deficit against Thunder in the West semifinals.
”We just failed to play well. It is not anything specific,” Coach Lionel Hollins said. ”It’s just that we were running too fast, we missed some layups, we were taking bad shots and our defense was really awful. And the Spurs played well.”
The NBA’s stingiest defense wasn’t up to its usual standards, allowing the Spurs to hit 53 percent of their shots and a franchise postseason-record 14 3-pointers while All-Star power forward Zach Randolph struggled. Randolph had just 2 points, getting his only basket with 9:26 left in the game.
He had a playoff-best 28 points and 14 rebounds in his last game, as Memphis Grizzlies eliminated defending West champion Oklahoma City in Game 5.
The Grizzlies started to rally as soon as Randolph came out of the game for the 1st time in the 2nd half.
Quincy Pondexter made a baseline cut for a layup off Darrell Arthur’s pass, then hit back-to-back 3-pointers in a 10-0 burst. Jerryd Bayless’ 2-handed, fast-break dunk off a good deal got the Grizzlies within 62-56 with 3:43 left in the 3rd quarter.
The comeback was short-lived, though. Sports scores
Bayless missed a 3-pointer on the next trip, and Manu Ginobili was able to make one at the opposite end to spark an 11-1 reply that immediately revived the Spurs’ lead to 16 by end of the quarter. Leonard hit a pair of 3-pointers and Gary Neal had one as San Antonio kept pouring it on in the fourth.
The four regular-season conferences were all won by the team with more points in the paint, but perimeter shooting proved to be a bigger factor in the playoff opener. Memphis, which was second in the NBA by holding opponents to 33.8 shooting on 3-pointers, let San Antonio Spurs make 13 of its first 24 from behind the arc and finish 14 of 29.