Spurs open rodeo trip with dud in Memphis

CaptionCloseMemphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, left, drives against San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol,...

Spurs open rodeo trip with dud in Memphis

Caption

Close

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, left, drives against San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, left, drives against San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich calls to players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich calls to players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale calls to players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale calls to players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

San Antonio Spurs guard Jonathon Simmons, right, drives against Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

San Antonio Spurs guard Jonathon Simmons, right, drives against Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) controls the ball against San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (14) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) controls the ball against San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green (14) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon

San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) drives between Memphis Grizzlies forwards Brandan Wright (34)James Ennis (8) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) drives between Memphis Grizzlies forwards Brandan Wright (34)James Ennis (8) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich stands on the court during a timeout in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich stands on the court during a timeout in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP

San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) controls the ball against Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandan Wright, left, in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) controls the ball against Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandan Wright, left, in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn.

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) reacts in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) reacts in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Winning in a place dubbed the "Grindhouse" is hard enough without adding in any vexing obstacles.

Doing so down one future Hall of Fame center and one MVP candidate is damn near impossible.

That was how the Spurs began their 15th annual rodeo road trip – battered, bruised and facing long odds.

Those impediments turned out to be too much for the Spurs, who fell to the Grizzlies, 89-74, at the FedExForum.

The Spurs (39-12) set sail without injured starter Pau Gasol, who has missed 10 straight games since fracturing his right hand during pregame drills on Jan. 19.

News that a quad contusion would keep leading scorer and All-Star starter Kawhi Leonard out of action arrived Monday afternoon.

That left coach Gregg Popovich to cobble together a starting lineup that, prior to Monday's game, had played a grand total of three minutes together during the regular season.

The results – with Dewayne Dedmon making his fourth straight start and Jonathon Simmons drawing his first since Nov. 1 – may deter Popovich from deploying this particular crew much in the future.

Over the game's first 91/2 minutes, Popovich's patchwork unit scored just 10 point on 29 percent shooting.

Memphis (32-22) was barely better, scoring 11 points on 29 percent shooting during that same rotten stretch.

At the end of the first quarter the Spurs trailed 17-14, marking their lowest-scoring opening period of the season – not an ideal way to begin a long jaunt away from home.

It was only when Popovich dipped into his bench that sparks began to fly.

The Spurs scored 26 points on 68 percent shooting in the second quarter.

Reserves David Lee, Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili combined to score 14 points on 7 of 8 in the period as the Spurs clawed back to tie it at 40 apiece.

Those hoping for this caterpillar to morph into a butterfly at the half were left disappointed.

A meeting between two teams each ranked in the top five in defensive rating and bottom five in pace was unlikely to produce an abundance of fireworks, but for most of the night the action was about as thrilling as your standard sparkler.

The Spurs produced season lows in scoring, field goal percentage (36.7 percent), 3-point percentage (22.2 percent) and free throw percentage (55.8 percent).

It was, for some Spurs, a harsh introduction to what might be the most grueling stretch in sports.

This Spurs team includes seven new players unfamiliar with the rigors of nearly a month on the road. Some of general manager R.C. Buford's additions had never even heard of the infamous rodeo road trip before signing. 

"Before we used to have all experienced players coming," said Ginobili, a veteran of the previous 14 rodeo trips. "Now we have many young guys. They'll have fun, they'll have a good time. It's a good moment to bond, to spend time together and get that playoff mentality that we start building from then on."

Results for the first-timers who actually played were generally good.

Lee finished with 14 points on 6 of 6 and Dedmon pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds.

But it was not enough to offset the loss of Leonard and Gasol.

Pau's younger brother, Marc Gasol, went for 15 points and eight rebounds. Point guard Mike Conley was limited to 12 points on 3 of 10, but dished 9 assists.

Grizzlies reserve Zach Randolph added 16 points and six rebounds off the bench.

"They're a team that is as consistent as they come," Conley said. "They're going to do what they do for four quarters and you just have to try to withstand the pressure they put on you."

The Grizzlies withstood it in their own house, the noise rising to deafening levels with each Spurs miss.

It reached a crescendo on a Conley bucket with just under five minutes remaining.

The Grizzlies 6-foot-1 guard caught 6-9 Lee in a mismatch, faked a spin outside, then turned back and attacked baseline. With Lee smothering him, he banked it off the glass, the referee blowing his whistle as the ball dropped through the net.

That basket and the corresponding free throw put Memphis up 83-70.

Popovich and the Spurs will view the loss as a minor setback – while keeping their sights honed on what really matters.

"Enjoy it, have fun with each other," guard Danny Green said. "Learn to win games on the road. If you want to be a championship team, you've got to win on the road."

Luckily for Green and the Spurs, plenty of learning opportunities await.

nmoyle@express-news.net
Twitter: @NRmoyle

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

NEXT NEWS