April 21, 2011

With Manu Ginobili back after missing Game 1 with a shoulder injury, the top-seeded Spurs avoided the nightmare of going to Memphis down 0-2, pulling even with the Grizzlies on Wednesday. Ginobili led the Spurs with 17 points and chipped in seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block, while George Hill iced the game for San Antonio with free throws down the stretch.

• One of the key plot lines for the Spurs after their Game 1 loss was that they had gotten away from what had worked for them all year: namely, there was no Manu Ginobili doing Manu-type things, and an erratic Tony Parker was forcing up too many difficult shots in the lane rather than finding shooters in the corner for three-pointers. While Ginobili and Parker had their share of hiccups in Game 2, both also found a way to make their bread-and-butter plays when needed.

During a 90-second stretch in the third quarter, Ginobili made four fantastic plays on both ends of the floor to help push San Antonio's lead to 56-48. The sequence of plays started around the 7:40 mark when Ginobili slid over on help defense to block a Zach Randolph attempt at the rim. On the subsequent inbounds play, Ginobili stole an errant pass from Tony Allen and raced to the other end to convert a three-point play. On the following San Antonio possession while inbounding the ball under their own hoop, Ginobili set a killer back screen to free up Tim Duncan for a dunk. After another empty possession for Memphis, Ginobili capped it off by stripping the ball from Mike Conley and dunking. It was the quintessential do-everything spurt from Ginobili.

• Parker, meanwhile, was marginally better from the field (6-for-14) than he was in Game 1 (4-of-16), but it was two of his precision passes that helped push San Antonio ahead for good down the stretch. At the 3:40 mark, while slicing to the rim, Parker made a blind pass to Richard Jefferson in the corner for a three-pointer, putting the Spurs up six. It was a play Parker kept failing to make throughout Game 1, instead opting to take his own shot. On San Antonio's next possession, Parker was at the rim again. When Memphis' defenders started to cheat to the corners, he flipped the ball to his right to Antonio McDyess, who made the layup.

• The Grizzlies' resiliency cannot be ignored. Despite connecting on some of its signature plays, San Antonio still struggled to put away Memphis. Even after the Ginobili-fueled run in the third quarter, it was only a two-point Spurs lead entering the fourth as Conley did his own Parker imitation to close out the third, slicing to the lane and creating havoc or kicking to his teammates in the corner for open jumpers. Then with less than a minute to go, Allen made a key steal off a Ginobili defensive rebound, leading to two points, and after a defensive stop, Sam Young (team-high 17 points) drilled a corner three to cut San Antonio's lead to two with 14.4 seconds to go.

• After seeing Marc Gasol go for 24 points on 9-for-10 shooting in Game 1, it looked like the Spurs did everything they could to get physical with the Grizzlies' center in Game 2 and knock him off his game. It appeared to work, as he finished with 12 points on 2-for-9 shooting to go with 17 rebounds. Gasol looked disoriented on the team's first possession of the game, getting the ball in the high post as the shot clock was expiring and opting for another pass. Throughout the first half, the Spurs were sending help defenders to Gasol's blind side and when he got a look at the basket, he got hammered, going to the free throw line 11 times overall. On one play toward the end of the first quarter, DeJuan Blair basically muscled Gasol to the ground while boxing him out.

• The Spurs cannot guard Zach Randolph one-on-one right now. In the first half, they allowed Randolph to continue working on a combination of Duncan and McDyess and he was able to go 3-for-6. By the second half, the Spurs started throwing some different double teams at Randolph. His face-up jumper was taken out of his repertoire, and as a result, he ended with a high-volume, low-efficiency stat line of 11 points on 5-for-14 shooting.

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