Spurs take 3-0 series lead, beating ragtag Grizzlies 96-87
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The San Antonio Spurs didn't play with their usual methodical precision. Kawhi Leonard more than offset those shortcomings, especially against ragtag Memphis.
Leonard scored 32 points, and the Spurs beat the Grizzlies 96-87 on Friday night to take a 3-0 lead in their Western Conference first-round series.
The Spurs now are a win away from their ninth postseason series sweep and third against Memphis. They finished the game on a 13-6 run in the final 3:41, and Leonard, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, scored 13 points in the fourth quarter as he shot 11 of 22 for the game and 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
''You want to work on your execution when the pressure is on,'' Leonard said.
LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green and Manu Ginobili each added 11 points for San Antonio with the Grizzlies focused on defending Leonard's supporting cast.
''He just keeps getting better and better,'' Memphis coach Dave Joerger said of Leonard. ''He's been terrific all series, and he's also a bailout player for them ... They can run all their stuff, and it's hard to defend, and he can go get a shot when the shot clock is going down.''
Zach Randolph led Memphis with 20 points and 11 rebounds on 6-of-21 shooting in his best game this series. Matt Barnes added 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Vince Carter had 11 and JaMychal Green was 5 of 5 for 10 points.
Game 4 is Sunday.
With Jarell Martin out with an injured left foot, Memphis had only 10 players available, and the 6-foot-7 Barnes jumped the opening tipoff at center. A fan summed up the Grizzlies' season by holding up a towel with the slogan: ''So proud of my team ... All 28 of you'' in honor of the NBA-record number of players Memphis used this season.
''All of our guys are playing with their hearts,'' Joerger said. ''There's no doubt about it.''
The Spurs so dominated the first two games in San Antonio that Memphis led only once, by a point and for 25 seconds. This time, the teams swapped the lead eight times with seven ties. Memphis not only took its second lead of this series, the Grizzlies also won consecutive quarters, outscoring San Antonio 25-18 in the second to trail only 44-43 at halftime and 28-26 in the third.
Joerger stuck with his starters much of the game, with Barnes leading the Grizzlies with more than 41 minutes and Randolph on the court more than 39. Leonard played a game-high 42 minutes, 23 seconds.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich complimented Joerger's game plan and said the Grizzlies' effort was even better.
''I thought we were a little disjointed at times, mostly because of their pressure and physical toughness,'' Popovich said. ''But we fought through it.''
The Grizzlies led for more than 2 minutes in the third quarter, taking their biggest lead at 51-48 after a 3-pointer from Carter and a pair of free throws by Tony Allen. That set up a taut quarter where neither team led by more than three, and Memphis led 71-70 going into the fourth.
Boris Diaw scored as the shot clock was running down to put the Spurs ahead to stay with 7:47 left, starting the 7-0 run. Memphis last got within 83-81 on a tip-in by Barnes. Leonard hit a free throw off a defensive 3-second call on Allen with 3:41 to go, and the Spurs finished off the win forcing five turnovers in the quarter.
Spurs: Tim Duncan played only 13:32 compared to almost 22 in Game 1 and 26 minutes in Game 2. With this win, Duncan tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for third in career playoff victories with 154. Duncan trails Robert Horry (155) and Derek Fisher (161). Duncan already tied Horry for second with 244 postseason appearances. Fisher also leads that category with 259 playoff games. ... Kevin Martin did not play because of illness. ... The Spurs had a 17-12 advantage in fast-break points.
Grizzlies: Allen missed all eight shots he took but was 5 of 6 at the free throw line. ... Memphis went 4 of 18 beyond the arc, outshot by Leonard individually and the Spurs, who went 12 of 26. ... The Grizzlies outrebounded the Spurs 48-39 and outscored them 44-28 in the paint. ... They also had an 18-1 edge in second-chance points, taking advantage of 15 offensive rebounds.
The Grizzlies traditionally have been very good hosting Game 3, coming in with a 6-1 record - the loss was to San Antonio - in that game since 2006-07 that matches the Spurs' own mark in that stretch. Only Brooklyn (5-0) has a better winning percentage in Game 3s at home.
The series has shown some similarities to the 2004 playoffs between the teams. In that series, the Spurs won the first two games at home by double-digit margins. Memphis' best effort came in Game 3 (as it did in this series) before the Grizzlies lost 95-93. The Spurs won Game 4 by 13 points.