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Grizzlies fall to the Spurs in Orlando

“Little things” cost the Memphis Grizzlies in the quest to pick up a seriously needed win against San Antonio as the Spurs won 108-106 in Orlando on Sunday.

After dropping their opening game in the NBA restart, the Grizzlies were looking to take down the Spurs, who now trail Memphis by only two games in the push for the last spot in the Western Conference Playoffs.

Asked what it would take for the Grizzles to win the battle of the little things, head coach Taylor Jenkins gave a simple two-word answer: “More urgency.”

Rising-star point guard Ja Morant put it this way: “We just have to play four quarters.”

Memphis entered the game with a 2-1 record over the Spurs this season. Morant, who put the opening loss in the NBA’s restart of the pandemic-altered season on his shoulders, was more aggressive from the jump, scoring 8 points and dishing 4 assists in the first half. He finished the game with 25 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds.

The Spurs were missing their big man, LaMarcus Aldridge, who is out because of shoulder surgery. He scored 40 points in San Antonio’s lone win over the Grizzlies this season. His absence made it easier for the Grizzlies to play inside, scoring 64 points in the paint.

Dejounte Murry led the way for the Spurs with 21 points. Derrick White made 3 of 8 three-pointers and scored 16 points. The Grizzlies did a good job holding San Antonio star DeMar DeRozon to 14 points.

Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 21 points for Memphis, who also were aided by the emergence of Grayson Allen. Allen had his best game of the season since January when he scored 15 points on 5 of 9 shooting.

“Continuing to find spots offensively, where I can get open and getting that quick catch to attack,” said all of his play. “I have been improving defensively.”

Defense must play better

Playing defense without fouling is what Jenkins has been preaching all season. In the first half, the Spurs stayed at the free throw line, making 13 of 16. The Spurs shot 33 free throws in the game. Memphis made 11 of 12 free throws in the first half and trailed 59-54 at halftime.

The Spurs have not been a great offensive rebounding team this season, but they captured six offensive rebounds in the first half, out-rebounding the Grizzlies 49-39 overall. The Spurs shot 41.7 percent from three-point range, making 12 of their 3-pointers compared to 7 for Memphis.

Not playing with a sense of urgency

Through the first three quarters, the Spurs had a greater sense of urgency. They were out-rebounding and out-hustling the Grizzlies loose balls. The Spurs out-rebounded the Grizzlies by seven in the third quarter and shot nine free throws in the quarter.

On the need to play four good quarters, Jackson said, “We have to pick up our intensity earlier in the game. We are good in coming back from behind, but we have to do that on the front end. We have to wipe our memory clean and do that tomorrow.”

For the second straight game, the Grizzlies fell behind by 10 points or more in to start the third quarter, but they battled back.

“Credit to the Spurs. They came out with more energy to start the game,” said Jenkins. “They had more juice, 50-50 balls, hustle plays and we paid the price for it.

Memphis lead has fallen to only two games over the now-ninth place Spurs. That makes Monday’s game (August 3) against the New Orleans Pelicans a must win. The Pelicans need the game as well, having lost their first two games in the restart. The game will tip off at 5 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN and Fox Sports Southeast.

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