SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs showcased a couple of key elements that eluded them in their Western Conference semifinal loss last season, opening up the playoffs Saturday with a 111-82 thumping of the seventh-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
Kawhi Leonard matched a career postseason high with 32 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge contributed 20. Point guard Tony Parker had 18 points in somewhat of a resurgent outing, as a trio of Spurs defenders stifled leading Grizzlies scorer Mike Conley so significantly, the point guard knocked down his final shot with 8:40 left in the opening half, despite playing a hefty 30 minutes.
“They got after us. They upped their pressure,” Memphis coach David Fizdale said. “They forced other guys to handle the ball. We went over it. We expected it. But we just didn’t respond well to it. I thought Mike [Conley] missed some chippies in the paint. But give them credit. They really turned the game around defensively against us.”
At times during their 4-2 series loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, the Spurs couldn’t get a bucket if it didn’t come from Leonard. The bench, which often carried the club through its historic 67-win campaign, flat-lined at inopportune times, while Parker played up and down and left pundits wondering whether it was time for the Spurs to go in another direction at the position.
The Spurs showcased the opposite of all that against the Grizzlies, leading to Parker, 34, having to answer questions about whether he’d turned back the hands of time. Parker nailed both of his corner 3-pointers, hitting 8 of 13 shots from the field for his 18 points — the majority coming on aggressive drives to the basket.
Parker also defended Conley for portions of the game, along with Leonard and Danny Green, who finished with four blocks and a steal.
“Just had some opportunities, just being aggressive,” Parker said. “It was one of those games. It happens sometimes.”